Tags: arthritis, consultant, hospital, national health service, NHS, nurse practitioner, RA, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), rheumatology
I saw my consultant for the first NHS appointment in April – having made the diagnosis he suggested I see the nurse practitioner for more information, and she referred me for an ‘early arthritis clinic’ which is a combination physiotherapy and occupational therapy clinic, the idea being that you get seen by both camps and they give you suggestions for every day living, assess your physio needs etc. Note the name ‘early arthritis’. I contacted the nurse in June to say I’d still not got an appointment – she checked up and told me they had a four-month waiting list. Hmm, I thought, so much for an early arthritis clinic! I rang her again after about 4.5 months – she told me she’d chase it up. Then I went to the Norfolk Arthritis Register meeting (which I’ll post about later) and the occupational therapy people were represented. I took my courage in both hands, went up to the OT stand and said, ‘I know this isn’t what you’re here for tonight, I’m sure you’ve been dreading someone doing this but I’VE BEEN WAITING FOR AN APPOINTMENT FOR FIVE MONTHS!’
She was very puzzled. ‘We only have a one-month waiting list’ she said. Well … that was interesting. Not that I’m pointing any fingers of course … but it does make you wonder …
She took my details and I thought that was the last I’d hear from that line of enquiry, but in the next day I go two phone calls from the hospital! The first was the rheumy nurse, apologising ‘on behalf of the whole hospital including myself’ for the complete mess they’d made of this appointment and saying that even though I’d been on the system when she checked in June, I was apparently nowhere to be seen on the system now. She said she’d re-referred me with a note saying this had been going on a while and was urgent etc.
That afternoon I got a call from the OT I’d spoken to the night before, asking me to come in later on in the same week! Amazing what a bit of kicking up a fuss can do. I shudder to think how long I’d still be waiting otherwise!
In fact when I saw my consultant he effectively gave me carte blanche to kick up a fuss if I needed to see him before the next appointment! The conversation went something like this:
Doc: Do come and see me before your next appointment if you need to.
PP: Fat chance! I tried that, but there were no appointments.
Doc: Well … reception can be a bit … you just need to phone my secretary.
PP: I did that … twice. She said there were no appointments.
Doc: Oh well! There are never any appointments!
PP: Then there’s never any point in saying I can see you before my next appointment!
Doc: Oh, you just need to kick up a bit of a fuss. We have to rely on the patient to kick up a bit of a fuss I’m afraid.
Well I’ll certainly kick up a fuss if the receptionist behaves on Monday when I go for my nurse’s appointment the way she did when I went for my OT/physio appointment … but that’s another story.