"Problems with Choose and Book"

About: Bristol, North Somerset, Somerset and South Gloucestershire Yeovil District Hospital / Audiological medicine

(as the patient),

March 12th: Having noticed deterioration in my hearing, consulted my GP who said that he would refer me to an audiology specialist for further investigations.

March 17th: Letter and colour brochure received from Somerset Booking Management Service, Bridgwater explaining the Choose and Book service and enclosing the details I would need (reference, password etc. ) to make an appointment on line. The attached details gave me a choice of Yeovil District Hospital (1 mile from home) or Crewkerne Hospital (11 miles from home) and also advised that on-line booking was not an option for either.

I telephoned the booking line to make an appointment and was asked which venue I would prefer. Knowing that Crewkerne Hospital is serviced from Yeovil anyway, I asked which hospital had the shortest waiting times but the person I was talking to was unable to advise. I therefore chose Yeovil District Hospital and was told that Bridgwater would write to YDH and that, in turn, YDH would write to me with an appointment. I was also told that if I had not heard anything by April 1st I should phone Bridgwater again.

March 18th: Received a phone call from Bridgwater Choose & Book with an apology – apparently the booking system for audiology at YDH had changed but Bridgwater had not been aware. I was now told that I should telephone YDH Audiology direct and make my own appointment.

I phoned the YDH direct number at about 3: 30pm (knowing that they are generally quieter in the afternoons): on the first call the line was engaged, on the second call I was connected to an answering facility and left a message with full details of my requirements.

March 19th: My wife received a phone call from YDH Audiology to inform me that they were unable to make an appointment as all of their available appointments were full. She was told that I would be put on an appointments waiting list and that they would notify me once an appointment had been made. My wife enquired whether I could also be put on a list for any cancellations at either YDH or Crewkerne and this was done.

March 24th: Letter dated 20th March giving me an appointment at YDH on May 1st.

March 31st: Phone call from YDH Audiology offering me a cancellation appointment at Crewkerne on April 1st – which I accepted.

April 1st: Attended appointment at Crewkerne Hospital (excellent experience and told that I would need to wait approximately 6 weeks for the follow-up appointment)

April 2nd: Received letter from YDH Audiology advising of appointment on April 1st with request to telephone if unable to keep it!

Received letter from “The Appointments Line” at Milton Keynes reminding me that I had not yet made an appointment through the Choose & Book system.

April 10th: Received appointment letter for my follow-up appointment at Crewkerne Hospital on May 20th.

April 16th: Received another letter from “The Appointments Line” reminding me that I had not yet made an appointment through the Choose & Book system.

This is an utter nonsense and I am not alone in considering the “Choose & Book” system as nothing other than a very expensive gimmick and job creation system. I am sure that the cost of this service which has no functionality could fund a number of more useful clinical staff. If the NHS were a proper commercial organisation bookings would be made on-line by the GP at the time of referral avoiding frustration for all concerned as well as saving a small fortune.

The inability of YDH to make an appointment at the time of my first call seems to be obviously an attempt to skew their waiting time figures – yet another piece of bureaucratic and nonsensical inefficiency.

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