I had a hip replacement operation several years ago, using a “metal on metal” joint, a technique that has generated several “issues” globally. As a result, my joint is scanned annually to see if any problems are developing. The situation is manageable and of no concern to me right now. What does concern me though is that after the last scan, I was told the hips were fine, but I had a hernia.
The doctor told me that I would be transferred to the general surgery team for treatment. That was in January, and now, nearly four months later, I have not received any communication from general surgery to even acknowledge the existence of a problem. I contacted my doctor and asked if they knew anything. Sadly the answer was not positive, and the surgery could only advise that “they will be in touch in due course”.
Maybe that will turn out to be the case; perhaps it won’t. But in the meanwhile, I started wondering, “how would this be if Amazon ran the NHS?”.
I would probably have received an email confirming that the scan result had been transferred to the general surgery team within about 2 minutes of being told about it. After that, I would have had a reference number, a point of contact and perhaps some update messages to outline the time it will take to be seen. And if I weren’t satisfied with that approach, I would have a contact point that might – just might – be able to calm me down.
Instead, I have nothing. The phone number for the General Surgery team is being answered by a message that says that XXX is “on extended leave”, and the alternative numbers simply do not answer the phone. I have no idea what the risks of a hernia are, what I should do if things worsen, and I have no idea when matters will be attended to.
I can’t help but think that it is time for us to expect more from the NHS. It remains an analogue monster whose reputation is propped up by superheroes who have worked wonders, especially in the last year. But it needs to adopt a more patient-focused approach based on the best practice of world-leading organisations.
Doing so will not require privatisation, just a mindset shift and an obsessive focus on the patient and all the communications points along the (customer) journey.