Back in the middle of 2009 I was referred by my G.P to a London teaching hospital. After many trials and tribulations I finally saw the consultant, the decision was made to schedule surgery, the exact nature of which would be based upon the results of further scans and tests. I fairly bounced my way home, at last I could look forward to resolution.
I’ve spent the 2 years, since my previous surgery, in discomfort and, by the end of the day, in pain. I’ve put up with it and carried on regardless but increasingly it has been affecting more and more of my day-to-day life. As long as I believed that my op would be only a few weeks away I was prepared to ‘grin an bear it’ but last week my gritty determination crumbled. I had the tests and scans back in December, I had a further appointment last week where. after a 2 hour wait, I was called in. The doc, not the consultant, duly reviewed my scans and told me the plan, fairly simple operation with a reasonable recovery time, yeah! ‘When, when?’ I grinned and, after a brief discussion with the nurses, he told me, ‘ Probably June’.
I slouched home and then spent 10 minutes blubbing. How I wish that the hands of the clock did rotate at a visually disturbing rate, I just want things sorted soon, quickly. In 2 words the doc had made my symptoms escalate from bearable to unbearable. By the evening I’m really tired and extremely uncomfortable, on-calls are now more stressful. It’s not just my usual disinclination to get up in the middle of the night and drive to a previously unknown destination for an unspecified length of time but also a fear that I may not function at 100% when I get there. I mulled the situation over and decided to go and have a chat with the occupational health department. Dream on, what occupational health department, they have been re-branded, Workplace Health. No longer are they there solely for NHS employees, no, workplace health (WPH) are there for NHS, plus they are also providers to the public and businesses. I found this out when I misguidedly phoned them to arrange an appointment, another faux paux as there are no direct referrals, my manager has to refer me. I am now firmly off into the land of Alice, for years I have inhabited a workplace where, if you had a work-related health query you would chat about it to occy health, you certainly didn’t have to spread word of your personal, health problems around. Right, in Wonderland I have to go to my manager, tell her what ails me and let her decide if I do need to see them. Manager then has to do a referral and then Workplace Health will triage (their word, not mine) me and arrange an appointment accordingly. I’ve done it all, I even made sure that HR were there when I spoke to my manager, I’m really dotting i’s and crossing t’s nowadays, I’m losing faith in people’s motives. HR advised me to phone WPH a week later if I hadn’t heard anything as she felt that I should see them sooner rather than later but I’m generous, I left it 10 days before I phoned them. They cannot find my referral, I have 2 copies, 1 sent by email and the other by snail mail but they haven’t received it in any form, not even by pigeon post. No referral, so no appointment. WPH want a new referral, I’ve sent them one of my copies.
It’s really difficult not to become extremely frustrated by all this paper-trailing, waiting and black holes that referrals disappear into. I can’t believe that I am unlucky enough to have this only happen to me, twice. I don’t expect an instant service, I know that the hands of the clock move slowly within the NHS, but I do expect that once paperwork has been sent that people can at least find it and that when they can’t they at least take ownership of the problem, not turn the poor unfortunate person who has been referred into a human ball being bounced backwards and forwards.