'No shows' at consultant appointments cost the NHS many thousands every year. To the best of my knowledge, nobody has ever fully researched why patients miss appointments; they could start by asking members of my family, who, despite their assiduous efforts to attend every appointment, have experienced the following:
1. A consultant’s appointment letter sent to an empty house – the ‘client’ being a long-term in-patient in the same hospital at the time.
2. Several urgent appointment notifications received some days after the appointment date because ‘the hospital post-room only operates one day a week to save money’.
3. A vital letter which the consultant never saw – as is standard practice, it was opened by a secretary and placed straight in the filing cabinet.
4. An urgent explanatory letter from a consultant which did not reach the patient in time because his secretary took two weeks to type it up.
5. The receptionist who failed to mark the patient as having arrived for an appointment – so the consultant went home without seeing her.
6. The receptionist who gave a cancer patient an appointment (requiring an 80-mile round-trip by taxi) on the consultant’s day off.Of course, you have to get a referral to the consultant in the first place, which is not easy when you are faced with:
7. The GP who missed a cancer for 2 years because the non-smoking, non-drinking 7-stone patient ‘didn’t fit the profile’.
8. The GP who dismissed advanced cancer symptoms as side-effects of HRT, saying ‘if people bothered about side-effects, nobody would ever take anything’.
9. The GP who refused for 5 months to carry out a PSA test (an indicator of prostate cancer) because, he said, the problems were 'just normal statin side effects'– when the test was finally done, the cancer it clearly indicated was too far advanced for treatment.And then again, there’s the careless lack of attention to detail:
10. The doctor who, we assume, must have given a diagnosis of cancer to the wrong patient. The actual patient, who has a similar name, was told on arrival by a baffled receptionist ‘You've been in already; your name's ticked off the list and the doctor's given you the test results'.All of the events described here have happened to members of my family and have contributed to at least one premature death. I’m not going to say any more on the personal side here, but I have promised them that I will use any means in my power to publicise what has gone wrong while safeguarding their anonymity.