"My elderly aunt felt like she was at the back of the line"

About: North Devon District Hospital / Ophthalmology

(as a relative),

Last Thursday I went with my elderly Aunty to her twice-a-year ophthamology appointment, which was originally arranged for 11:45. After registering on arrival, an hour past by and my 82 year old Aunt who is in a wheelchair and blind in one eye, became increasingly fretful.

I approached a nurse and asked if there was a problem, or if we'd been overlooked. The nurse stated that the Doctor was backlogged and that 3 other patients were ahead of us in the queue. We were obviously a bit annoyed given that my Aunt's appointment was supposed to be at 11:45, but we decided to hang on and wait.

Another 45 minutes elapsed and I approached a different nurse for information. She began by saying that there were now only two people in front of us, but when I asked her how much longer it might take she quite flippantly replied: "how long is a piece of string".

By this time we were really frustrated as we saw people who arrived after us, walk in to the Doctor's office for their appointments. Apparently they were priority cases and had been fast-tracked, but who could more of a priority than a partially sighted women in her 80s?

We were most annoyed about the lack of information and communication, we would never have traipsed down there and waited two hours if we'd have known such a delay was a possibility. My Aunt's appointment was in effect pointless and she felt like she was put at the back of a very long line of people.

Eventually we decided to arrange another appointment, which is scheduled for December, some three months after the initial appointment.

We know there can some waiting involved when you attend a hospital appointment, but to me the Opthamology Department seemed overloaded and overstretched to properly honour it's appointments that day.

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Response from Jayne Kruszewski, Customer Relations Manager, Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust

Dear Jog215

Thank you for posting your comments on the website. I'm really sorry that you had such a frustrating experience whilst waiting for your aunt to be seen in Opthalmology, and I acknowledge how upsetting it must have been at the time. Its really unacceptable that you waited for two hours without being given the reasons for the delay, and I am very dissapointed that due to the delay you felt the need to re-arrange your appointment for a later date.

Following you raising this important concern I have shared your comments with the manager of the Outpatient department. She woulld like to offer her sincere apologies that you had such a long wait, and that you were spoken to in such a flippant manner. The day of your appointment was a particularly busy clinic, however that does not excuse the fact that you were not kept up to date with how long the delay could be.

She has informed me that she is currently looking into the possibility of installing an appointment message board, which will keep patients fully informed of delays and how long they can expect to wait, and whilst I appreciate this cannot change your experience this should avoid a similar situation happening in the future. She is also going to use your comments at the next team meeting to remind staff how important it is to keep patients updated when there are delays in clinic, and the importance of how they impart that information.

I do hope your appointment in December runs more smoothly, and if you would like any further assistance with regards to this concern please contact the Patient Advice and Liason service (PALS) on 01271 314090.


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