"The experience of Choose and Book for a patient in Stevenage"

About: NHS East and North Hertfordshire

(as the patient),

Five weeks ago I started the journey of trying to book my appointment using the Choose and Book system and today 070308 and 16 'phone calls later I managed to book an appointment; not in the hospital I chose or on the first or second date I was offered. Because I could not, because of my work, accept either of the first two dates I was told that on my record it would show that I had accepted the second date and cancelled it, which is not the case at all. Getting to this point was not easy.

Five weeks ago I phoned my surgery to say that I had decided to be put forward to the NHS and could the GP please write, to be told that there is a new system and someone would ring me back. Four days later I was phoned back and told that I needed a pack. I picked up the pack from the local pharmacy as my surgery is the other side of the town. I read the pack and decided on my hospital. A few days later, when work allowed, I phoned the number on the pack to book my appointment. I was told I could not book my appointment and was asked lots of questions. I was told that in 6\7 days I would receive a letter with a number to phone to make my appointment. I reported back to my surgery that I did not yet have an appointment and later that day someone from Choose and Book left a message for me to phone. Later that afternoon, when work allowed, I phoned back. The person had gone home and no-one else could help me. "Could I ring back tomorrow". This was not a question.

I phoned the next morning; was asked more questions and left on hold. On returning, was told that my BMI was too high to go to the private hospital of my choice. I insisted that the referral be put forward to my choice. Five days later I was phoned just as I returned home from work and spent an hour on the phone arguing the mainly bad points of BMIs and even though all are in agreement, it is the rule that all private hospitals will not accept an NHS referral with a BMI above 35. How odd I thought. On 18 December 2007 and regarding the same condition the very same hospital allowed my private referral and I saw a consultant. BMI was not mentioned. Just last Friday the very same private hospital allowed my second private referral and the consultant said he had no problem with my BMI.

A couple of days after the hour long conversation with Choose and Book and, having no option but to accept a referral to an NHS hospital with agreement that if my BMI was below 35 I could have an operation at the private hospital I chose, I received another letter asking me to phone a number to book my appointment.

I phoned the number, had more details taken and was told that someone would phone me.

Several days later someone phoned and left a message for me to ring back. I phoned the number and was first told that I was phoning the wrong number. Then after a lengthy wait was told that the person I needed to speak to had gone home and "is it OK if I phoned tomorrow". I said "no it was not OK if I phone tomorrow, what is the other option". There was no other option.

In between all of the phone calls to Choose and Book and various hospital departments I also phoned the surgery to let them know that I was getting nowhere fast.

I could take no more having to phone and be asked more questions or be told that the person had gone home.

When at the surgery on Tuesday I left a note to say that I had given up trying to book an appointment on this terrible Choose and Book system and pretty much resigned myself to the fact that I am, yet again, going to have to pay to receive treatment for an ailment that suddenly overnight turned be from being able bodied to being disabled.

For a different ailment I had to pay £6000 in 2004. For a different ailment I had to pay £1000 in 2006. For this ailment, I have already paid out the best part of £1000 and, other than one Cortizone injection that gave me partial relief for two and a half weeks over Christmas, it is over four months since my problem began. With bad advice at the start of this episode and a stupidly put together NHS system, I am still disabled, still having to pay or wait until mid April to see someone on the NHS and rumour has it that I will then wait a further two years for an operation which will have only a 50/50 chance of making me better.

Throughout the booking of this appointment with the Choose and Book service my blood pressure has been off the scale and have been totally stressed which just isn't fair to add to pain that doesn't often leave you and I feel the NHS service and particularly the Choose and Book service is dreadful. Hope everyone doesn't have to suffer this experience too!

I wrote to the Prime Minister about this last Saturday but no doubt there will be no response.

Here's hoping everything gets better!

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