"Wait...wait...wait... parking charge!"

About: Freeman Hospital

(as the patient),

Today I had cause to attend an outpatient appointment in ENT with with my daughter who has a persistent problem, and at which a decision was likely to be made as to whether surgical intervention is required or not.

This week is SATs week at schools, but obviously health is more important, and so we took my daughter out of school at lunchtime and I myself took a day of annual leave from my employer so that I could attend.

The appointment was at 2pm, and being aware of the need for punctuality, we turned up and booked in early (1.30pm in fact) and were given one of the pager devices. NHS posters etc frequently talk about no-shows and late people - we turn up early to help.

Over a period of time from 2pm, we realised that not only had everyone already present in the waiting room been seen, but that everyone who had arrived after us had been seen too. By 2.30 I had spoken to a receptionist in case our pager device had failed, she assured me it had not and went to speak to someone for us.

We noticed a white-board which is used to mark delay times for the various clinics, but nothing was on this for our doctor (his name was not on it), and beside other doctors names the times had been rubbed out, so obviously it was not in use.

The receptionist returned and told us that a nurse would come and see us to let us know what was happening.

After another 20 minutes (by this time my daughter had become increasingly nervous about the appointment - something which was purely exacerbated by the prolonged wait as I'd managed to keep her mind off things earlier, but of course sat in the waiting room this was not possible) a nurse came out and spoke to me at which second the pager went off (coincidence?!). So by this time the appointment is 45 minutes late.

The nurse then took us to...another waiting area! Not to the doctor at all, and when I asked, I was told that there were patients in front of us still. One with the doctor and another already waiting in this second waiting area.

So we were still nowhere even near seeing the doctor...I asked how long it would be, but of course the nurse (understandably) could not tell me - so as far as we knew it could be another hour even, and she could not give me an assurance it would not be *another* hour. It was explained to me that some appointments had overrun.

I accept this can happen of course, but there are 2 simple ways to treat customers like people in such circumstances:

1. Would it have really been beyond anyone's capability to come out earlier and tell us there was an hour (minimum) delay? If they had then I could have taken my daughter away for a time, maybe to the café or outside, then come back.

2. Why not put the delay on the white-board which is there for that very reason? Again, this would have let us use the time rather than keeping her there to get more & more nervous.

Eventually we had to leave and make another appointment as my daughter would have been in an awful state if made to sit and ponder things for another hour.

Here are some suggestions:

1. If appointments are running late - tell the patients - some of us are decent working people - we DO pay for the service, it is not free to us, so surely we deserve being treat civilly?

2. If appointments do frequently run late, then either they are giving time slots which are too small or are overbooking - both resolvable easily.

3. Don't make appoinmtents for 2 if you can't see the people until 3 or 4.

4. Some customers may be difficult and even unpleasant - but we are not all like that. The assumption just to leave us sitting like cattle without the decency to explain why is simply rude - other people's time matters too, we are not all on the dole! Leaving us like that for so long with no idea why then taking us to another waiting room to wait possibly another hour shows sheer contempt for us... why would we deserve that attitude?

4. Stop exhorting patients to turn up for appointments on time - if the hospital themselves are not willing or able to see them on time, or polite enough to explain that they are not going to, why waste the money on the publicity materials about Do Not Shows, and why on earth would they expect patients to reciprocate just to be left sat there?

To top the lot, on our way out the car park system then stung me for £3.60 for the privilege of being treated this way! - So they even made us pay more for making us wait! That beggars belief.

I have always been a fierce proponent for our NHS and it's staff (members of my family are staff), but it seems to me that no one there cared that we'd wasted a day out of my daughters exams and a day of my holiday allowance, and that if I had not asked the receptionist, we might have been sitting there 2 hours or even more without anyone speaking to us. I'm sure the delay was not the fault of the receptionist or nurse I spoke to, but it must be someone's responsibility to advise patients - they really don't expect them to sit there uninformed for an unlimited time, (presumably for someone's convenience)...do they?

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