"Frustrations with Rheumatology at NHS Forth Valley"

About: Stirling Royal Infirmary / Rheumatology

(as the patient),

I have been extremely disappointed by the service I have received at NHS Forth Valley's Rheumatology department over the past year and a half.

I have seen 3 different consultants over 5 appointments so feel there is no particluar person responsible for my care. I felt a real lack of empathy from one of the consultants in particular, even when I was crying during my appointment as the pain in my joints was getting so bad that I was really struggling day to day.

I have taken time off work and turned up for an appintment to be told that I had been booked into the wrong clinic and shouldn't have been there that day.

I have had to make phone calls to chase up appointments.

I have completed the exact same paperwork on two seperate appointments because the consultant hadn't filed the paperwork after one of my appointments.

I started on new medication in November and was due to see the nurse in February. I originally had a consultant appointment due that month but because I was seeing the nurse the consultant appointment was pushed back to July. However my nurse appointment has been cancelled and I was offered an unsuitable alternative so now have to wait another month to be seen.

When you call the rheumatology helpline it can take two or three days to get a call back. If you happen to miss that call you get a message asking you to call back but when you call back you get the answer machine again and it can take another few days to hear back.

All in all I have had a very frustrating experience of this service and feel completely let down by them. I work in the NHS myself and appreciate the pressures on staff. However despite the pressures we are under the care should always be patient centred and unfortunately this has not been my experience at all in NHS forth valley rheumatology.

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Response from NHS Forth Valley

Dear Tired and sore

Many thanks for taking the time to leave feedback about your recent experience at the Rheumatology Department.

I was so sorry to hear of your frustration at the level and quality of service provided by Rheumatology. You are correct that unexpected staff illness and also maternity leave has resulted in capacity issues over the past 18 months. Unfortunately two out of three Consultants have been off work for many months; one remains off; and one has returned only part-time. There has also been a big loss of nurse time due to illness. Inevitably this has affected patient care. Many clinics have had to be moved- which in turn has increased calls through the nursing service causing delay in responding to enquiries. The hospital management has endeavoured to support Rheumatology by providing a locum service.

Normally return appointments would be booked with the same consultant. This major staffing disruption has necessitated appointments being generated with varying consultants with the aim of providing patient review within the timescales recommended during patient consultations.

The nurse advice service is now back to full function, but does often require a message to be left. The number for this is 01324 566934. These messages are logged centrally in order that we can see who has called even when not in the office. The recorded message does state that this is not an emergency service. We do try to meet our commitment of returning the calls within 2-3 working days. If you feel that you need more urgent attention, your GP does have access to an advice service which is reviewed every working day by one of our consultants.

There is an alternative point of access to request an appointment in the rheumatology injection clinic. This is routinely answered between 10am and 2pm via our secretaries. The number for this is 01324 566336. I am also happy to take enquiries by email if this helpful and can be reached at carolann.davies@nhs.net.

I hope that moving forward you have a more positive experience in accessing care and continuity of service. Clinicians and management in the Rheumatology team all recognise that this has been a difficult time for our patients, and we regret the fall in standards caused by this series of exceptional problems. Our aim within the team is to provide care at the point of need and I apologise that we have failed in this in your patient journey. I hope this response has provided additional means of contacting us to discuss your care and respond to your concerns.

Carol Ann Davies

Rheumatology Specialist Nurse

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