"Outpatients booking - West Middlesex University Hospital"

About: West Middlesex University Hospital

(as the patient),

I have had an ongoing skin complaint and went to my new GP in Twickenham to have it looked at again. He referred me to a specialist dermatologist which was great. However, things went less well when it came to the appointment booking system.

Because of some pre-booked travel I couldn't attend the first appointment that was sent out by post. Despite 'Choose and Book' being available I was never offered the service at all and when I found out about it and asked for it the GP surgery and Outpatients department, both seemed uncertain about how it would actually work which meant that by the time I received my choose and book information another appointment had arrived in the post. This made me feel like I was being an inconvenience rather than trying to do things in a more efficient way!

The second appointment which had arrived would have been ok, except on the day of the appointment I came down with a stomach bug and couldn't attend. When I called the hospital to let them know this I was transferred around three different departments, each of which took a long time to answer the phone, and then finally transferred to someone who dealt with my query.

No please and thank you's were used by the staff on the phone, they were very quick to point out that I had already changed an appointment in the past (and didn't ask whether I had a good reason for doing so, seeming to imply that this was not appropriate, or that I was being difficult). Staff were also talking to other people in the background of the call which made me feel like my query wasn't important when to me it was very important.

The final person I spoke to gave me no option to change my booking or to use choose and book, and simply said that I would have to wait another 10 weeks for an appointment to arrive in the post. As I am on holiday in ten weeks time all I can do is hope that it doesn't arrive then and make me feel pressured to cancel my time off and lose money on pre-booked travel and accomodation. Surely there must be a better way of working with patients rather than dictating to them? For my part I tried to be helpful by calling as soon as I knew I couldn't make the appointment, but for their part, I felt like staff weren't interested in helping me get an appointment booked more quickly. It will be six months before I actually get to see a consultant which seems like a very long time.

I appreciate that staff are busy and appointments can be difficult to coordinate but surely it is a core part of the reception and booking line's job to be friendly and helpful to people calling up, not to doubt their integrity when changing or cancelling appointments, to offer choose and book to people, and at a bare minimum to say please and thank you when patients call in?

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