We had an "urgent" appointment today. Now I don't know about you, but when I have an urgent need, I usually need to meet it within hours, if not minutes. Still, I accept that hospital time has a different flow, and six weeks is definitely better than six months. And the secretary chasing the appointment did apologise for the delay, which helped.
We'll fast forwards over six weeks with a child who is regularly obstructing her own airway, and get to today. Our appointment was at 3.30; we were in the waiting room for 3.20. There was a nicely printed note saying that your doctors aim to see everyone within thirty minutes of their appointment - fair warning I suppose.
Ninety minutes after our appointment time, we were finally ushered into the doctor's office. Not to see the consultant as arranged, but to see the registrar. The consultant was not available today. The registrar had none of my daughter's notes and no explanation for why the only information he held was three sheets of A4. My daughter's notes fill several files. The reg. took a partial history, and then carried out a 3 second examination.
He then explained that the problem was not one which surgery could fix. And that we needed to see the consultant. We know we need to see the consultant, we were under the impression that was why we had attended today. He informed us that we need to arrange another sleep study, but that even if the sleep study does show obstruction, it is not a surgical problem. And told us to make an appointment with the consultant for 2-3 months' time.
We got out to reception to find no receptionists. May I please suggest that your receptionists do actually stay in reception until there are no more patients in the waiting room? I appreciate this may cause you to have to pay them overtime. But we weren't the only patients trying to hand in the "please give this letter to the receptionist on your way out to arrange the next appointment" letters. There were in fact patients still waiting to be seen, in addition to the small queue of people waiting to go home.
Including travel time, and parking time, and waiting time, we spent around 4 hours on this appointment. We were accompanied by our community nurse, who had much better things to do than sit around in a waiting room all afternoon. We gave up one day in the middle of our half term holiday in order to do this. I appreciate that, had the notes been available, we may still have been sent away for a sleep study. But at least I could have felt that the doctor did know why we were coming to see him. I also appreciate that the consultant is busy. But we have now been sent away again to wait for an appointment with the actual consultant. If, when we were offered this appointment, it had been made clear that this was not in fact the appointment we needed, we may well have chosen to wait a few more weeks rather than waste our day achieving nothing.
My daughter gave a demonstration of the problems she is having during the appointment. We showed a video of a more significant episode. And the registrar we saw sent us away for twelve weeks. That'll make 18 weeks since we were referred, urgently, by another doctor who was unable to help. And over 26 weeks since these problems started. How many more weeks would you like this child to continue to struggle before someone decides to stop referring her on or back and actually to treat her?