"Frustration with making bookings to see specialists at Nottingham Treatment Centre"

About: Nottingham NHS Treatment Centre(Nations Healthcare) Queen's Medical Centre

(as the patient),

Private company (Circle) is doing the bookings to see a specialist at the NHS Treatment Centre, QMC, Nottingham.

Had a great experience with a specialist, who has been helping me through a rare form of arthritis. Having got me stable, we formulated a plan to gradually adjust my medication over six months. At the end of that he would see me again.

Unfortunately it didn’t go entirely to plan, and one of my medications started to affect my liver function. Having been taken off and back on it, my specialist (over the phone, in his own time) decided that we would be just about okay to hang on until the appointment to ascertain what to do re: the medication.

The system is such that, rather than being able to make an appointment at the time, the private company sends the patient a letter 6 weeks before the appointment, and then you are to phone for your appointment date. I duly did this six weeks before my appointment was due, and was told there were no appointments for another three months. They said they could email the specialist to see if they could try and book me in earlier, and would get back to me either later that day (Friday) or on the Monday.

Nobody called back, and so I called again on the Tuesday. They said they had no notes on the system that I had called or that they would contact the specialist, and now it would be even longer until I could see my specialist (this would be two months after the date for which the specialist requested the appointment. They then said that I could see someone else, but would then never be able to see the specialist who had seen me through a difficult diagnosis and treatment (a scary thought as the first specialist I has seen was unable to diagnose, and failed to treat the illness).

By this point the company suggested I speak to the NHS department themselves, and put me through to the department’s answerphone. They called back the next day, and were extremely helpful. Suggesting that I get an appointment whenever I can, and they would diagnose and advise on my medical treatment by phone until that point, bypassing the appointments company. They also asked me to complain to the company, because the system didn’t work, and that it would never change if patients didn’t kick up a fuss.

If the actual NHS department is actively asking the patient to complain to the private company as (in their own words) “the system doesn’t work” something is worryingly wrong. This seems to show a lack of any joined up thinking. Are Circle doing what is best for them when it comes to processing patients, and not what is best for the NHS workers and patients?

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Response from Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust

Thank you very much for taking the time to share your feedback about the services and care you received at the Treatment Centre and at one of our hospitals.

You have highlighted several areas of concern in the customer and clinical service you received. These are issues that do need to be addressed.

Please could you contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Team on 0800 183 0204 so we can investigate further and provide you with a full response.