"Notes not at the clinic for my appointment"

About: Hertford County Hospital

I arrived at the hospital today for a 12 pm appointment and sat and waited to be called. I was over half an hour early as I allow time for delays with traffic and finding a place to park.

I sat and waited quite near to the receptionist. I soon became aware that my name was being mentioned and that my notes were obviously not there.

At around 12.10 pm a member of staff called me to one side and explained that as my notes were not in the hospital (they were at the Lister) I should go home and come back at 2pm.

I explained that it would not be worth me going home.

What would happen if the notes did not arrive? I was told that they would definitely arrive. I told the member of staff that I would stay sitting in the cafe area until 2pm. So having arrived before 11.30 am I duly sat in the cafe until just before 2. My notes did actually arrive just after 1pm but the doctor was at lunch. I saw the doctor at around 2pm - two hours after my appointment time.

This is not the first time this has happened.

Last year I was just getting in the car to travel to my appointment, within the hour, with the same doctor as today. The clinic rang to tell me that my appointment was cancelled as my notes were not there. I would be sent a new appointment in the post. I was not happy as I had waited months for this appointment.

After a couple of weeks no new appointment date had come through. I decided to clarify this with a receptionist at the QE11 in Welwyn while I was attending a different clinic.

I was told that there was no new date booked for me and no letter on its way for that cancelled appointment. I had also been marked on the computer as a DNA - did not attend!

I was extremely distressed to hear this. This receptionist did however book me into the next available appointment which was many weeks in the future.

So, at least today I made it as far as the hospital before I was rejected!

It seems however that if you have clinic appointments within a couple of weeks of each other then the notes don't seem to follow you round the clinics, getting stuck on someone's desk somewhere.

I expect I will have a problem/delay now with the appointment for a gynae procedure I am awaiting as my notes were whisked away from the desk they were on (gynae at the Lister) to attend this clinic today.

Surely, with computers being used for most things these days, it would be appropriate to have patients notes available at the push of a button thus preventing what happened to me today and last year.

As patients, we attend hospital because we are ill. We have to take time off work, arrange childcare, arrange lifts from friends and relatives if we can't drive ourselves etc.

These problems do not help us and just cause extra stress that we really do not need.

I now feel that I should ring ahead of my appointment to ensure that my notes are actually there before I set foot outside of my house.

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Response from Hertford County Hospital

We're really sorry for your experience to date - last year we did have a big problem with medical records arriving on time, especially in the second half of the year when we undertook a major project to centralise the service.

Whilst the service has improved significantly, there can still be the odd problem - and it sounds that through great misfortune given your previous experience, you were affected again.

And for that we are truly sorry, but pleased to see that this time your appointment went ahead albeit later than planned.

With regard to the computerisation of health records, this is a project on which we have embarked.

Many tests results, including blood tests and radiology images, are now all computerised already. The huge challenge is scanning all the existing active records we hold, which run to hundreds of thousands of individual sets of patient records.

The cost of doing this is huge and irrespective of how sensible and desirable the outcome, we just do not have the budget identified yet to achieve this outcome.

With regard to your forthcoming gynaecology appointment, if you contact us at generalenquiries.enh-tr@nhs.net we would be more than happy to check on its status for you - just send us and email and we will do that - it's the least we can do in the circumstances other than to apologise again for your experiences to date.

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