"Waiting time to be seen by consultant after letter from doctor"

About: Lancashire Royal Preston Hospital / Trauma and orthopaedics

(as the patient),

I asked to be referred to Salford Royal as I have heard it is a great hospital. I have multiple disc bulges, and have had severe pain for many years. Nothing so far has helped, so I am now contemplating surgery.

After not receiving much help from pain management or from a consultant at my local hospital, I asked for a second opinion here at Salford.

Initially I was seen quite quickly and the consultant at the time said I am a potential candidate for surgery, but wanted me to try an epidural injection as process of elimination and to see if it provided me with some relief from the pain. I agreed to this course of action and waited for an appointment.

After a month waiting I heard nothing and my symptoms were worsening, so I rang the consultant and they said I would have to get my doctor to write a two line letter to state my symptoms were worsening in order to get an epidural injection sooner as they were very busy.

I went to my doctor and they wrote a letter explaining my worsening symptoms and I waited. After chasing this up with the secretary I managed to get an appointment for the epidural, and I found all the staff to be absolutely excellent, (although waited over four hours for this injection in a lot of pain).

I did get some relief from the epidural although only to one side, and again had to chase up my follow up appointment with the consultant. I am now in a lot more pain than I was before the epidural, which only gave relief for approximately 2. 5 months.

I rang up and asked if I could be seen again or be scheduled for another epidural, but was told the consultant I was under was leaving. And I had to go back to my doctor to ask for a two line letter stating my symptoms had worsened. This I believe a waste of doctors time, I feel it is wholly unnecessary given I am a patient at Salford Hospital and am supposed to be under on-going care. But again I asked my doctor to write a two line letter, and I waited several weeks for an appointment, yet heard nothing.

I chased this up again and they explained that they are very busy and that patients with a greater need than mine have to take priority. I was told a letter would be in the post within a couple of weeks but this never came. I chased it up again with a few weeks later and they said if I didn't receive a letter by the first week in December to give them another nudge. Needless to say I did not receive a letter and rang to chase it up again. I spoke to another member of staff as the usual one was not at work that day. They said there was nothing on the system for me, no appointment until February as that would be my six month follow up. I explained to her that I was supposed to get an appointment sooner and that the doctor had written a letter a couple of months ago for this. So then they said they would chase it up and see if any of the others knew anything, and ring me back later that day. Later on that day approaching 4 pm I rang again as I wasn't confident in receiving this call back - and this time I was told I had an appointment for the 9th December. I don't believe I would have got an appointment at all if I hadn't made several phone calls to chase it up.

Today the secretary rang to say I had an appointment for the 9th and remarked that she didn't know what happened to the letter, but another one would be sent out. I got my appointment letter today dated six days previously, I believe my phone calls to chase this up meant I got the appointment, if I had not been persistent, I don't believe this letter would have been sent at all!

I feel I am falling through the cracks in relation to getting the help I need with my spine. It isn't enough to tell patients they are bottom of the queue and to ring back when they don't receive a letter. I don't think anyone can know how bad my situation/pain is if they don't see me. On the phone I am just a name on a sheet of paper. I thought I would matter at this hospital, but now have my doubts.

It is so sad to think you have to suffer for several years before being considered for an operation, when in many countries, including the UK if you are a private patient, you are considered for an operation when symptoms don't improve after six months.

I haven't worked for over two years, I also have lost my independence as I can't drive or lift bags of shopping. I would say I should be higher on the list given my situation. I just feel sad to have to keep asking for help, but be fobbed off for as long as possible like I don't matter at all. My epidural was in June. Now six months on and 'maybe' closer to having another epidural, in my mind I hope for an operation to give me back some quality of life.

Yet realistically I don't think it will ever happen.

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Response from Rhona Hartley, Head of Patient Experience and Customer Care, Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

I'm sorry to hear of your experience and am disappointed to hear that you had to be ask to be referred to Salford Royal Hospital as a result of feeling you did not receive much help from your consultant or the Pain management team locally.

I'm not sure from your feedback whether your on-going concerns about the delay in treatment relate to your care at the Royal Preston Hospital or Salford Royal Hospital. Can I ask you to please contact our PALS staff on 01772 522972 if you are having on-going difficulties in accessing care at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals, who will be pleased to try to help.

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Response from Royal Preston Hospital

Thank you for taking the time to provide your feedback. We were sorry to hear of your experience and would ask you to contact our PALS department if you are continuing to exprience problems.

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