Hospital waiting times have reduced dramatically in recent years. As recently as 2001, it was not uncommon for patients to wait over a year for routine operations. This led to people asking their GP’s if they could be referred to a specialist so that they could get onto a waiting list before their cataract, or hip got “really bad”. These days have gone.
Hospitals have targets saying that patients need to be given treatment within a few weeks of their GP referring them. Before some treatments can be given, a number of consultations and tests are necessary. All of these must be carried out within the set timescales: these currently vary between hospitals from 13 to 18 weeks.
This means that it is important that if you are referred to hospital, you will be able to go to any appointments that are necessary. These could include, but are not limited to:
Seeing your Consultant in outpatients
Having x-rays, scans or any other tests, some of which may been coming into hospital for the day
Being admitted for surgery or treatment
If you are planning a holiday, or have a significant event coming up which means that you would like to delay having treatment, please ensure that your GP knows about this before you are referred to hospital. Also, if you are pregnant, or breast feeding, please speak to your doctor first, as some tests or treatments may need to be delayed both for the safety of either the mother or the unborn baby.
Your right to choose
When you and your GP agree that you need a hospital appointment, you are able to choose which hospital you go to, and are also able to influence the date and time of your appointment. Your Doctor is likely to use a service called “Choose and Book” to arrange your first hospital appointment. You may be able to make the appointment while you are in the surgery, or you may be given a letter with a telephone number to call to book your appointment. More information on Choose and Book can be found on the following website http://www.chooseandbook.nhs.uk/ or ask the receptionist for an information leaflet.
If your doctor feels that you need to be seen at the hospital without delay, you may be asked to go to either the Emergency Department or an acute assessment area so that you can be assessed immediately. “Rapid Referrals” to hospitals can also be made for patients who need to be seen within a 2 week timescale. If you have any questions or concerns about what the plan for your treatment is, it is important that you ask the healthcare professional who is treating you. You are also entitled to be given a copy of any letters which concern you: again, please ask if you would like to receive these.
Re-arranging or cancelling appointments
Each year, over 15,000 hospital appointments are wasted because people do not turn up without letting the hospital know. If you aren’t able to keep your hospital appointment, please telephone the hospital as soon as you can so that it can be rearranged or cancelled and offered to someone else. Patients who do not attend their hospital appointments without first letting the hospital know, may be discharged from hospital care. This means that their GP will need to re-refer them to hospital if they still need to be under the care of a Consultant.
During 2009, more hospitals are likely to start sending patients text messages to remind them of hospital appointments. Before this can be done, people need to provide the hospital with their mobile telephone number. If you agree to be contacted in this way, please give your mobile phone number to staff next time you go to the hospital and this can be recorded for future use. If you do not want to be contacted in this way, your treatment and care will not be affected. Please remember to let your surgery and the hospital know if any of your details have changed so that you can be contacted if necessary.