Tuesday, June 09, 2009

An Examination and an Insight

The insight is into how the much trumpeted and all hallowed "Patient Choice" agenda really works.

The examination was having someone poke around in my eyes to see if they can do anything so I can see straight lines again, which would be nice. I've had this distortion (which is unrelated to my RP) for aeons now and I'm quite used to it, but if it could be fixed....Let's begin with an everyday tale of going to the opticians. In the Millbrooker Towers household we tend to favour Dolly and Itchybum for no better reason than that's where we've always gone. Hey ho.The young lady who checked me out for nothing more worrying than everyday myopia also took a quick peek into the inner workings of my eyeballs using one of those head-gurney things and said that she wanted to write to my GP to get me checked for "something" that might be treatable in my right eye. Jolly good - "well spotted", say I.

A week or two later, I get a call from the GP's office, where they've received said letter from Dolly and Itchybum, asking me to make an appointment so I can be referred onwards to an eye specialist. Again so far so normal and ok.

Formalities completed I awaited an appointment with the eye guys. Then I got a letter from "The Appointments Line" giving a special password and asking me to call them. Hmm. Not tried this approach before, but let's make the call then.

I was offered a choice (remember that word "choice") of The Royal Eye Infirmary, Plymouth, The Opthalmology Department at Liskeard Hospital or somewhere or other in Tavistock. I wanted to go to Liskeard.

"Sorry, Liskeard has no available appointments".

"But I have something called 'patient choice' and that's where I 'choose' to go. I'm quite happy to have an appointment in several months' time; Tavistock is much too far away and I really don't like the Royal Eye Infirmary."

"We'll write to Liskeard and they'll get in touch with you within fourteen days."

Needless to say, nothing of the sort happened. Instead, on Saturday just gone a letter plopped onto the Millbrooker Towers doormat. The letter was dated 5th of June and told me that I had an appointment on the 8th of June at the Royal Eye Infirmary in Plymouth. Exactly the place that I'd actively chosen NOT to attend, because the admin there is godawful, the waiting times are measured in millennia and , frankly, I don't think the standard of care is very high (and I've had plenty of experience whilst awaiting diagnosis of RP back in 2003).

The R.E.I. is a very attractive building, mind, an unusual thing in Plymouth:So, with two days notice, Mrs The Millbrooker and I rolled up at the R.E.I. having failed to gain anything from "Patient Choice" other than having had to make an unnecessary phone call or two.

I should say that the waiting times issue seems to have been tackled; I was seen after only about half an hour of sitting around, although the whole examination and processing took a deal longer than that. We'll see about the admin and S.o.C. issues when I hear from them again.

I was seen by a Mrs Paragatti (I think I've spelt that right) who was very pleasant as she stuck things into my eyes and made me sit still while she peered through several optical devices into the inner recesses of my minces.The upshot? Mrs P reckoned that there's a spot of fluid lurking where it shouldn't which makes straight lines appear all wavy and distorted, but that preliminary diagnosis has to be backed up with a scan at some future (unspecified) date. Then they can decide that it's untreatable (that's not me being a dedicated miserablist, Mrs P didn't think there would much they could do).

So, there you have it, an adventure in NHS administration and another posting on these pages about very little indeed. How do I keep it up?

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