The emotions of a hospital appointment

I often wonder if our health system is now such a monster, that it  fails to recognise patients as people, and not just numbers that have to be herded through the system, beating numerous targets on the way.I am not convinced that people truly understand the pressures that patients go through, and the emotions they experience around a hospital appointment.

I am speaking from five continual years of appointments in numerous hospitals, and different clinics. I have also attended many appointments with my wife. I would like to add that I do understand the problems involved in dealing with such a vast and varied audience.However, it seems that staff do not fully recognise some of the pressures that accompany a visit to hospital.

In a lot of cases, people have to change arrangements, to suit the appointment, and of course we all have time pressures. Therefore they may have work, children or dependents and transport to organise, before and after their appointment. A lot of visits involve routine check ups, but imagine if you were waiting for the results of some tests or scans. All those other pressures adding to your already increasing anxiety. Throw the ever ticking clock of car parking fees into the melting pot and you can start to understand the pressure that some patients might begin to feel.

You have finally got through the above, and you can see the clinic filling with patients, and your appointment time has come and gone. There is no sign of your doctor, and no information letting you know what is happening. How are you feeling now? This is the area that I am not convinced a lot of hospital waiting room staff fully understand. Why, I don’t know, as it is their work.

I can quite honestly say, that the only appointments I have ever had that were on time, were when I went private! Given that fact, I think we are all used to waiting well past our allocated time, right or wrong, but that is the case. It seems like me,  we accept that system as a trade off for finally getting to see the doctor. But should we accept a system like this, just because of the number of people using it?

Wherever we go to spend our money, we would not accept busy as an excuse. If someone left you alone in a shop for ages when you wanted to buy something, you would leave. Most problems can be solved by a robust and well managed system. Central booking etc I understand, but it is the patient facing area of the operation I am questioning.

The prompt for this post was within the space of two weeks, I experienced the best and worst of hospital appointments. Firstly, I waited in excess of an hour and a half  of my appointment time in a clinic, which was badly understaffed, the clinic was uncomfortably full, and communication was poor. Despite the obvious issues, patients were coming into the clinic, and not being told there was a delay. To make matters worse it was quite obvious that the consultant didn’t see it as part of his job to let the receptionist know that his clinic was running late. I actually left and never got to see the doctor as I ran out of patience!

I then had to take my wife to the eye clinic at Croydon University Hospital on a Friday afternoon. In honesty I was prepared for the worst, and when we arrived the clinic was full. ‘Deja vu’ I thought! But quickly, the system started to roll, with first eye drops, then a few minutes later a scan. As we sat and waited, the senior consultant made an announcement to the clinic, that a member of her team was unavailable and there would be a delay. Fair enough I thought, at least we know! I was also impressed that the consultant herself had done that.I would also like to add that on the appointment letter there is a note informing you that you might be there for up to two hours.

Once we had been seen it was discovered that my wife had a cataract that needed to be removed, and they would send an appointment in the post. They have done, and she is having that op next week! Thank you to that team, for a great example of the N.H.S.

As shown above, every patient is unique, with very different issues and circumstances, and I feel that there should be more understanding of this, in the clinical environment.It is possible, as my recent example indicates, but we will need to focus on the individual, not purely numbers and targets.


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