"Chelsea and Westminster: exercise in futility, then preferential treatment for private patients "

About: Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

(as the patient),

I reported previously on communication issues with this hospital, namely being sent no instructions with a form, which doesn’t even bear a phone number, and then being told in a letter to ‘use the form’ to make an appointment for a procedure.

I wrote to the hospital for instructions but got no reply. Today I called to chase it; I was told I had been sent a letter telling me to ‘use the form to make an appointment’. What was the procedure? I asked. I am reasonably intelligent and hold a senior position in a very specialised area – and I am multilingual, yet the form is Greek to me. It gives no clues as to what to do with it. It is filled with gobbledygook, some sort of computerised script/code. The person on the line could not tell me what the procedure was.

It has now been over 1 month of futility and wasted time, letters and calls.

I made the fatal error of making a second call, reason being:

I had been seen by a named specialist whom I had gone to great lengths to research. When you experience as many service failures as I have in the NHS, you only see specialists that others can vouch for. I've already reported on the difficulties encountered when I first rang to make the appointment: they couldn’t tell me whether I would see him specifically. They told me to ‘try’ and ask for him on the day! As if I can take time off work to waste. Anyhow, after many calls I was able to arrange to see him.

So naturally I want my next appointment to be with him as I highly rate this specialist. Yet the next appointment letter does not specify I will see him either.

I had possibly one of the most infuriating phone conversations ever with another human being; the specialist’s secretary. Could this person help me? I was told, in what I consider to be the snootiest tone, that I would just have to turn up on the day of my appointment and "see what happened”. “They said I might be able to see him if he was there. Could I have an appointment on a day he was there to save me a wasted trip? No, only private patients could specify and be guaranteed a slot with him.

I think I have identified an NHS trend of discrimination here because a few weeks ago at another hospital I wasted half a day to see a named specialist to be told by a registrar “he’s not here”.

So it appears private patients get to see the specialists and the rest of us get fobbed off with whoever is around, i.e. registrars, research fellows, etc. I am not a second class citizen: I am a taxpayer, I work hard and contribute to funding the NHS which is meant to provide me with a service. I cannot afford to go private for every one of my diseases, so who is this hospital to relegate me to 2nd class citizenship?

I tried to explain that I was a busy professional - I could not simply take hours off work to travel all the way there, wait and then be told I couldn’t see the specialist. This already happened to me at St Thomas and my senior management took some convincing when I explained how I had wasted half a day off work and not had my appointment. They all have private health insurance so are used to first class service.

Wealth, social standing, education, or class does not mean that people are entitled to better health care.

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