"Key communication between services and to patients could be improved"

About: Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre

(as the patient),

I am currently undergoing treatment for ovarian cancer, and have undergone both chemo and operations in the treatment. Almost every member of staff at all levels has been very professional and shown me good care and consideration, and I have no complaint about the actual care I'm receiving which I'm very grateful for.

I am, however, finding some aspects of communication either to me, or between services on my behalf, really frustrating, resulting in me having to call busy secretarial staff to provide an update or to rectify an issue. My own experience seems to be par for the course anecdotally, with staff advising me to keep calling as this is the best solution to progress!

I would like to propose some simple amendments to the current communication processes which would make a significant improvement to patient experience, stress and anxiety:

1. Letters detailing appointments should no longer be the primary means of communication in this day and age. Letters have their place as back up confirmation but people phone or text in 2012; people rarely write letters for appointments. I accept there may be difficulties re correct numbers and people not answering, so a process of trying 3 times to contact by phone may be required. Trying to plan your other engagements and commit to other appointments is extremely difficult when you have to wait for letters. There is also the anxiety created by not knowing what's happening, which tends to affect me without realising it until I have a response and realise I can relax. By contrast, those consultants, doctors or secretaries who do call you, take a great weight off your shoulders, and I have had the delight of talking with 2 very effective secretaries.

[Talking should also enhance the relationship and therefore the feeling of being cared for.]

2. CT scan booking should be possible while you are with your consultant, so that you can agree the appointment before you leave. As an IT manager I am aware that online booking systems are ten a penny, and I assume that one is in place for CT scans. Why does my consultant need to order a CT scan on a piece of paper, have this sent to some central location for an administrator, who knows nothing of my case or timescales required, to allocate, then inform me by letter? In my case this led to a double booking with treatment and I realised that no-one was actually looking after the timescales of my case, which made me feel uncared for. I called the consultant's secretary and within 24 hours it was successfully sorted out. Had my consultant the IT permissions to access the CT Scan system online, to be able to book a slot while I am in their clinic, to agree a date and time before I left, the situation would never have arisen and the additional effort to resolve would not have been needed. [My first scan was organised very quickly and I was updated by phone by the doctor's secretary, so direct booking is possible for some areas...]

3. I am currently waiting to receive dates for further chemo. Again this has to be ordered and I'll be notified by letter. In the interim I have enquired directly and the consultant's secretary has been able to provide a date and I can now schedule the next steps and plan ahead. As in my point 2 above, if the correct permissions were made available to the appropriate staff to make a booking directly, this process would be greatly simplified for the patient and for staff.

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