Monday, 27 June 2016

Snail mail? FAIL MAIL

27th June 2016

Head of Alliance MRI Unit SOTC Scanner Princess Royal Hospital Lewes Road Haywards Heath West Sussex RH16 4EX

Dear Sir/Madam,

Re: MRI Spine lumbar and sacrel appointment 26/06/2016 9:15

I am writing regarding the above appointment which I was unable to attend.

The letter was dated 19th June and did not reach me until Friday 24th June. I had left early that morning for a trip away, so missed the post. I did not return until midnight on the Saturday and did not open my mail until midday Sunday, upon which I realised I’d missed the appointment. The appointment I had been chasing both the MRI department and Mr Carl Hardwidge’s secretary for details of on numerous occasions, mainly via email and telephone. Communication methods which I think would highly benefit the NHS.

For the 51p it cost to send me the letter I didn’t open until too late, a telephone call could have been made to inform me of the appointment. Better yet, an email could have been sent for free. When I phoned the MRI Unit to rearrange my appointment, the lady I spoke to (who was, to her credit, highly apologetic, courteous and quick to offer me a more convenient appointment – and I hope her pay reflects her skills, as I see frequently on the NHS job site admin roles which do not even pay the Living Wage) I asked why I had not been phoned or emailed. The reply was “We’re not on email.” Why on earth not? It’s a safe, reliable, fast form of communication. And we’re living in 2016. I get emails and texts from supermarkets informing of the progress of my food deliveries every step of the way. Why can this not be adopted for matters regarding important medical procedures?

The appointment I missed (with no voicemails of concern, asking me why I wasn’t in attendance) could also have gone to a patient more direly in need.

May I suggest:

  • Embracing modern modes of communication such as email
  • Recognising that patients may have to fit their appointments around the work and social lives – therefore phoning before an appointment is set to check it is suitable
  • Accepting patients such as myself, on medication for chronic pain which leads to drowsiness and not car owners, are offered afternoon appointments at a hospital location more convenient for them.

I would like my concerns raised at future team meetings and a reply confirming this will happen. I want to get the ball rolling on discarding outdated methods of contact between professionals and patients. Out with the fax machines, in with email. I will not hear this tosh that is frequently quoted in the media as reasons for not adopting email in the NHS – that it is ‘insecure’. Fax machines are not secure. Royal Mail is not secure. I risk my appointment letters going missing in the post or nosy neighbours/housemates peeping and accessing information pertaining to my health.

I would also like to know why it is up to me to inform Hurstwood Park Neurological Centre of the outcome of my results. This is a procedure which should be included in the duties of paid admin staff.

I would also like to point out that if I hadn’t been sitting on a waiting list since August 2015 to see Mr Hardwidge, I wouldn’t be needing this – an appointment for my third MRI – at all, as my second MRI wouldn’t have been so out-of-date by the time I got to be assessed by him. Mr Hardwidge’s secretary – could you also be kind enough to include on appointment letters patients may be required to remove their clothing. I was under the impression I was going in for a discussion, rather than a physical examination. I would have worn clothes and footwear easier to remove. Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

Karen McDermott

Email: [redacted]

Cc: Neurosurgeon, Consultant in Pain Medicine, Patient Liaison Service, Chief Exec Princess Royal Hospital.