"My frustration with the booking system and how I would improve it"

About: Southern General Hospital / Neurology

(as the patient),

This is about the Southern General Hospital neurosurgery outpatient booking system. I have yet to see a consultant.

I waited 3 months for an appointment. I had an idea it would be this long (a GP had phoned on my behalf) so I prepare myself for the letter, expecting it at least 2 weeks in advance, so I can prepare. I get a letter in on a Thursday saying it is next Thursday, which I can't make. The letter says something about an email address but there is no email address listed. I contact the phone number. The staff member does not wish to give the email address, which would have been my preferred method. My feeling is that they were worried about potential for change and redundancies. I have to wait for them to look at a list of the consultant bookings and phone me back (about 1/2 hour later). I don't get much say in options. I take the option given (being told it's really the only one available for 3 weeks or something.

It's 2 weeks to go, so I prepare myself mentally (travel and psychologically). Then on the Monday of appointment week (my booking is for Thursday), I get a letter saying it's been cancelled to the Friday, which I can't make. This letter was probably written 3 or 4 days ago (I presume everything stops for the weekend). I go to phone the number that was supplied in the original paper (I've destroyed the original paper), but it's not on the new booking letters (and neither even is the main switchboard number). Again it mentions about an email address but the email address isn't listed. I go online expecting to find a giant informative SGH website, only to find scraps that were probably put online 10+ years ago. I find a list of neurosurgeon secretary phone numbers, but mine isn't listed. I try a number and it is dead. I then guess the list was written years ago and is out of date. I phone the main switchboard and get given what I believe to be the SGH neurosurgery booking number. I phone the number but it's constantly engaged. Then one time I get through to the waiting system and I am 7th in line. This doesn't seem a big queue, as I have been on utility lines where I was in the teens. I then suspect the waiting queue switchboard is not big enough. While I am waiting, the auto-caller mentions an incomprehensible email address to contact. I try and guess it, and judging by it, I guess that they are bundling all Greater Glasgow booking hospital appointments (serious, non serious etc) into one call centre at Victoria Hospital. I take a gamble and decide to try what I think is the email address. I hang-up and send an email asking if this is the correct address, expecting everything to then be solved in an hour. I get an instant auto-reply saying I will be contacted within 24 hours. I then guess I will likely get a reply the same speed as a 1st class letter. So I get back on the phone and 3 hours later I have been unable to get through. even to the waiting system.

How I would improve the booking system:

Management will be unaware of the system, the company that set it up will be long gone, and the staff won't want change.

Bring it up to the late 1990's at least, by making email an important method of correspondence. It is better to get things in writing as quickly as possible. With my cancelled booking I could have sorted it on the Thursday/Friday rather than hearing of it on Monday. It would also enable one person to follow the enquiry.

You could make it very simple and allow patients to book appointments online via https. However email will do for now at least.

For 'serious' departments (e. g. oncology, cardiac) make contact for booking a priority dept. Either do this or hand it back to the hospital dept. Don't bundle them in with everything else.

Get a phone waiting system that can cope.

It's obvious to see what has happened, the management and the company who set the system up don't use the system so don't know what it's like. All they need to do is pretend they are a patient and go through the process to see.

I feel writing this here will have a greater impact than 1,000s of complaints to the complaints email address, as both the public and head of Greater Glasgow Health Board can read it here.

I stand by what I wrote earlier but it got solved later the same day. Once I managed to get the 'real' phone number of the dept and the consultant secretary my concerns were sorted in minutes. I had to find the secretary number which was the hard bit.

The problem seemed to be the 'official' appointment call centre which is a black hole and initial contact letter process which can't cope with change of plan.

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Responses

Response from Paul Cannon, Head of Administration, Acute Services Division, Greater Glasgow & Clyde NHS

Dear bluesea

Thank you for taking the time and trouble to post to Patient Opinion. We are sorry that you have not had a good experience with the booking system. We have passed your comments on to the Head of Medical Records/Appointments to establish if more can be done to improve our system.

Once again thank you for sharing your experience via the Patient Opinion website.

Kind Regards

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