The NHS turned 70 this year, and is undeniably the pride of Britain. We are resistant to criticism of our ‘free at the point of delivery’ enviable healthcare system. However, is the loyalty to our national health service putting our own health at risk?
UK solicitors surveyed over 2,000 people and got the rather shocking result that over 80 per cent of people would wait up to one month before chasing an expected follow-up appointment. This is not waiting a month for a follow up appointment, but waiting a month before chasing up one that has not been made by your healthcare provider, but should have been.
30 days. 30 more days of uncertainty and ill health, with possible deterioration and an increased chance of negative health outcomes. Worryingly, 9 per cent of those surveyed stated that they would wait until they were contacted, never chasing up the expected follow up appointment, potentially falling victim to admin oversights or lost post.
The NHS is unfortunately, not a perfect system – no healthcare system is, and people do sometimes fall between the cracks. If you were to find yourself at the wrong end of radio silence from your doctor, how soon would you chase it up?
Another finding from the survey showed that 28 per cent of those surveyed would not complain if their treatment was substandard, with 86% aware of the much publicised pressures on the NHS, for example, budget cuts or staff shortages.
If you do find yourself in a position where a follow up appointment seems to be missed, how do you know when to follow up, and when you’re being a nuisance?
Give it a week
If your condition does not seem to be too serious (and remember, you possibly aren’t qualified to judge that) a week is a reasonable time to expect to receive a letter or text detailing a follow up appointment. After a week, it is not entirely unreasonable to make a phone call to check on the progress of your case. If you are waiting on test results, often a GP practice will state that they don’t deliver results if the results come back normal. It is worth following up a week later anyway, as you may want to discuss your results.
Take an email
If you feel like a nuisance caller, see if your practice has an email for patients to contact the admin staff through in order to check on the progress of your case. Most practices will have the capability of ordering prescriptions via email or dealing with receptionists in this way.
Taking it further
If you feel like your appointment being missed has exacerbated your health condition, you may have some legal recourse in seeking compensation. Many are hesitant to pursue this, but if a complaint to NHS PALS proves fruitless, seeking legal advice can help you get professional eyes on your medical records, which can help you get answers if you are wondering how or where things have gone wrong. Look for a solicitor who has experience of NHS claims.
The NHS provides medical care to over 60 million people. It is up to the individual to empower themselves and take control of their own health to ensure you don’t fall through the cracks and risk your health due to loyalty.