Sometime last summer, my dentist smashed up a tooth. You will have to go to hospital she said. What now, I asked? No, they will contact you. What, they will call me? No, they will write to you.
Months later, having spoken to my dentist several times about the long delay, I get a letter from the hospital. Great, I think, I will be going in next week. No, an appointment for some weeks hence.
On the appointed day, I turn up at my local hospital. I check the paperwork to double check where I have to be, and shock horror, wrong hospital, I have not been referred to my local hospital but one some distance away, with no easy way of getting there by public transport.
I check with my dental practice, to learn that they, not just they but all GP and dental practices, have received instruction that patients are to be referred to hospitals in Hampshire, anywhere but the local hospital, which happens to be just across the county border in Surrey.
– Frimley Park no longer local hospital for Farnborough and Aldershot
– Farnborough patients denied patient choice
But we have patient choice, it is we the patient who decide where we are going. In theory yes, in practice no, budget considerations decide.
I broke a tooth, another trip to my dentist.
It will have to be taken out, and no, in light of what happened before, I will be referred to hospital. No way, I say, am I going miles away, I am to go to my local hospital. My dentist agrees, and says she will see what she can do. She then explains what is going wrong.
Up until April 2011, she would refer me to a consultant to do the necessary work. Now she has to refer me to a committee, it is the committee who decide where I will go, a committee that is not made up of dentists.
Many things wrong with this:
- It breaks the working arrangement between local practitioner and specialist consultant.
- It introduces a layer of useless bureaucracy that is simply wasting money and adding additional costs.
- The decisions of the committee are being made on budgets not on medical grounds.
- For the patient the inconvenience and cost of not being referred to their local hospital.
Early December I receive a letter inviting me to call the Royal County Hospital in Guildford. Not my local hospital, but better than Basingstoke.
I call, make an appointment. I ask why Guildford? They do not know. I could be referred to my local hospital, but then I would be at the end of the queue. I decide to try Guildford, be seen, then maybe get referred to my local Hospital Frimley Park.
Friday 13, I turn up at the Royal County. Bad design, obliged to walk the length of the hospital to find the entrance. Why is it not at the front of the building? I walk in and I am nearly knocked out by the oppressive heat. I find the relevant department. Instructions on reception tell me to sign in on a touch screen, instructions on touch screen tell me to to report to reception! Someone is making money out of a contract for unnecessary equipment. I report to reception and hand in registration form. Receptionist ask me have I used the touch screen to register. I say yes. She takes my registration form, crumples it up, and throws in the bin.
Consultant is pleasant and helpful. She looks at my recently broken tooth. I ask about the tooth the dentist smashed last summer. She says she knows nothing about it, asks me which tooth. Looks in the file and tells me there is no paperwork. I explain that I have been waiting since the summer and passed around the houses. She asks is it painful? I say no, but occasionally a dull ache. I say I am not waiting any longer, can she not deal with that one too? She agrees and sends me off for an x-ray.
My head is clamped in a machine, an x-ray machine rotates around my head. I am called back in to see the consultant. An impressive x-ray picture, a couple of inches high and several inches long. Four teeth to be extracted. I turn white. I only know of two. She then shows me a back tooth, wobbles it to make the point it is loose, and tells me it has infection all around. It does not have to come out, but will eventually have to come out. If nothing else, explanation for occasional dull pain. Surprisingly, the one the dentist has smashed up could be rebuilt. Another could be rebuilt, lot of work, a post and a crown. I say I do not mind, better than losing a tooth. The one the dentist said had to come out, yes, will have to come out.
Will it be done now? No, the hospital will contact me to make an appointment. Will she do it? Maybe, but will see on the day. Why not my local hospital? They only do under general anaesthetic and this can be done using local. She will write to my dentist and explain the teeth that can be rebuilt.
It can only get worse.
With the massive privatisation of the NHS the ConDem government is trying to force through against the strong opposition of the public and those who work in the NHS, it can only get worse.