"Contacting Hospital Impossible!"

About: St Bartholomew's Hospital

I was a patient at the Heart Hospital for several years. I never had any difficulty getting through to the Heart Hospital itself, their Outpatients Department, nor the Consultant's Secretary.

I phoned St Barts this morning as I had been given an "open appointment", and I wanted to get a date.

Attempting to contact St Barts was an eye-opener. It shocked me that it was so difficult to get through. The system was slow, ill-thought out and inefficient. Staff had not been trained how to leave voicemail messages, nor how to help callers lost the system. The system appeared chaotic, as if some Evil Devil had thought up all the ways he could make the experience as difficult and frustrating as possible and thereby ensure that very few people ever got through to the person or department they were trying to reach.

With a communication system like this, St Bartholomew's cannot hope to be seen as cutting edge. It comes over as an unresponsive, unprofessional, inefficient institution unlikely to contribute anything much to the advancement of medicine.

Thus: * You phone the number given on the website as St Bartholomew’s Switchboard. You expect to get through to that hospital. Oh no! First you are presented with lists of hospitals and asked to pick the set yours is in. Having picked your set, you then identify your hospital - in my case St Barts - the hospital I thought I was calling in the first place.! What a waste of our time!

Surely St Barts is big enough and important enough to have its own number? * Having run off the list of the Consultants’ Contact Numbers from the Website, you try to make contact with your Consultant’s Secretary. Neither number given on this list for the doctor I wanted is correct.

* You ask Switchboard for help. They give you another number. This number is answered by a robot. The robot mentions her name, but she doesn’t clarify her role, nor mention a connection with cardiology nor my consultant.

* I return to Switchboard. They give me a number for Cardiology The number turns out to be Out of Order.

* I’m advised to try Outpatients. I ring and ring but never get through. I seek help from Switchboard. I wait a very long time. Eventually Switchboard gets back to me. They explain that Outpatients aren’t picking up.

. * At various points, I’m told by Switchboard, or “wrong numbers” to wait and they will transfer me. Either immediately, or very soon after, my call is cut off. I’m back in limbo.

* Switchboard tried to be helpful. Others didn’t seem to know how to get me to the right place, nor to have any interest in getting the system sorted out.

Please sort out your communication systems. They are maddening and undermine the hospital.

Judith Morgan

October 14 2015

Story from NHS Choices

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