I recently visited my doctor in South Ockendon with a hearing problem. After examining me she informed me that I would need to be referred to ENT for further tests and mentioned hearing aids!
I was then sent in to see the nurse who was to take a swab of my ear for tests and told that the results would be ready in a few days. After waiting a few days I popped back in to the surgery to be told that there were no indications of infection, good news, so I asked when I might hear about my appointment for ENT.
The receptionist gave me a leaflet explaining that I had been referred to Fortis Healthcare, had never heard of the them and that they should be calling me by Wednesday 17th August, the day of my visit to check the swab results was Monday 15th August.
I waited but no call was received, so I decided to give it a day or two. Not having heard anything by Friday I decided to leave it until Monday 22nd August when I decided to call Fortis direct. When I did eventually get through, the phone was going unanswered for an interminable length of time, I gave my details and was informed that a letter had been sent out to me that day and that an appointment had been made for me in October at Brentwood!
Before I get to that I made some general enquiries of the young lady I spoke to on:
a) Why they had not contacted me by phone as detailed in their leaflet - Could not say as she did not know why
b) Why was their phone not being answered promptly - Understaffed and have been since they were set up and they have loads of backlogs of patients waiting for appointments and have had since, again, they were set up
c) Why would you make someone living in Ockendon and appointment for Brentwood when Orsett and Basildon were easier to get to - It was the earliest appointment.
I have a number of concerns and issues with this.
1. Why is this service of appointments to hospital being outsourced to a private company?
I don't know if you have visited a hospital recently for any of the many clinics that they have. I have/do. Ophthalmology and Arthritis. Whenever I visit either department they have teams of receptionists and staff sitting in front of computers. On arrival you hand them your documents you are booked in. At the end of the session you hand them your notes and a further appointment is made, normally. However I note on my last visit to Orsett Opthalmology that a new appointment was not made and I was told that this will be sent out to me in the post and I wonder now if this is because it is going to be done through this new system?
2. On reading the leaflet it clearly states that the GP will write to Fortis and that that will be sent electronically and that they Fortis will then contact the patient within 7 working days, by telephone, if they have been given the correct information by the GP. I can only assume that they were given it as I have ensured that my GP's receptionist has my full contact details.
But it seems from the above that they did not even bother to do this, because they are short handed, apparently.
3. When I did call them on the 22nd they informed me that they had sent a letter that day with the details but if Brentwood was not suitable they could change it there and then and send me a new letter, this was done and an appointment was made for the next day in October from the Brentwood appointment, but in Orsett. The letter mentioned in that call did not actually arrive at my home until the Wednesday and was postmarked 23rd, I called 22nd.
4. I then received two more letters on Friday last, 26th August, one from Fortis dated 22nd August confirming my call and change to Orsett and one from Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals also dated 22nd confirming a 'provisional' booking for the October appointment!
I am assuming that like a bank or credit company, Fortis levies a charge against the local NHS for every letter that is sent out. So why did the letter dated the 22nd still go out when it was postmarked 23rd, and after my phone call?
Why if all of the hospitals still have all of their administration staff in place, do we need to go through a third party and pay an additional cost to them for a service that clearly was/is not geared up to make any improvements to the service already offered?
How much is Fortis charging for this service and are additional cuts going to be made to NHS staff to fund it?
If the NHS staff are to be made redundant, how much saving is that going to give the local NHS trust, after redundancy payments are met and how many staff are likely to be made redundant?
If staff are likely to be made redundant because of this privatisation of bookings, what impact is that going to have on the local economy in the long term?
If staff are not to be made redundant from the NHS, why are Fortis being paid to do this?
I await your early response