"Problems with the appointments service, Ninewells Hospital"

About: Ninewells Hospital / Paediatric surgery

(as a parent/guardian),

My little boy who is four years old, was diagnosed with an inguinal hernia in June 2014. Our GP wrote to the paediatric surgery department at Ninewells Hospital to refer us for an out-patient appointment.

Within a couple of weeks, we'd received an initial letter from the paediatric surgery appointments office. This informed us that within 12 weeks of receipt of the GP referral we would be given a choice of two appointments to see a specialist.

This Monday, signified the end of the twelve week period and we had not received any further communication. I phoned the appointments office to be told that we had actually been given an appointment for late August, of which we had been notified by letter at the beginning of August. It had been recorded on the system that we 'did not attend' the appointment.

We did not receive a letter and so therefore had no idea of this appointment. My husband and I had been religiously checking our mail on a daily basis as we were desperate for news of this appointment. We cannot have missed it or mislaid it.

The appointments office informed me that all letters are sent out via an electronic system and that our letter was recorded as having been sent out on 5th August. I was not given any explanation as to what could have happened. I appreciate that letters do go missing in the post - but it is not clear what happened on this occasion.

The appointments office were able to offer me a new appointment for the end of October. In the last couple of weeks we have had to take my son to A&E on two separate occasions due to a twisting of the hernia causing extreme pain and discomfort. Because of this, we have been very keen to see a specialist and hopefully have the hernia corrected via a small surgical procedure. To now know that we cannot be seen for an initial appointment, let alone the operation, for another two months is disappointing, awful and very worrying.

We were advised by the appointments office to go back to our GP and ask to be re-referred (which we have done) but we've no guarantee of being seen any sooner.

I feel very disappointed in this failure of the appointments system, something that my GP confirmed is a common occurrence. I'd like to know why there can't be a system in place whereby a patient has to confirm receipt of their appointment and their planned attendance. If this is not received then a check could be made by the appointments office. This would involve a cost in staff time - but I'm sure it would be worth it given the wasting of a consultant's time at a clinic appointment which we did not attend.

And I would also like to express how upset I am that my family and I will now spend the next few months worrying about my son's condition, with potentially more trips to A&E, when the wheels could already have been put in motion to have this condition treated.

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Response from Caroline Hiscox, Associate Nurse Director, NHS Tayside

Dear RMB,

I am sorry to hear that your son has been in pain with an inguinal hernia and understand that you are disappointed with the appointment system. I would like to further understand and if possible to help and would therefore ask you to contact me today, if that is possible, to allow me to assist. I will advise the feedback team that you may be contacting them. They can be reached at feedback.tayside@nhs.net or 0800 027 5507.

I look forward to speaking with you.

Kind regards

Caroline McQuillian

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