Being not only a Governor of two hospitals but also being disabled, I have had a lot of interaction with the NHS one way or another and I can only praise the way they have coped in these very strange times.
I know that some people are saying that there is now a 5 million operation backlog, but the NHS had to put the virus fight on the front line, and I am totally convinced that they will ensure that those in urgent need of operations will be seen too. After all, people who work in the NHS are the natural carers in our society, and they will not want people to suffer…it is not in their nature, and thank god we have such caring people.
What this blog is about is not the 5 million backlog but rather the prospect of using virtual online consultant appointments as a way to catch up on the missing appointments, and to use it as a way forward.
During this pandemic I have had a 6 week online pain management course thanks to the Walton Centre. It taught me to be a bit kinder to myself with regards to my disabilities, and that I should not criticise myself as much. The people who started the course with me fastly become friends and not one of us dropped out over the 6 weeks. We agreed to do 3 hours a day for 3 days a week for 6 weeks, and I did not miss one appointment and neither did they.
It was a great way for people who are in pain to access a help course as it meant that even in pain we were still able to access the service, with the physio, psychologist, and the OT and it had to have been a lot cheaper for the hospital itself and with no drop out…it was a 100% success rate, and if we had any issues then we had a break out room where we could go for a private chat.
It saved the cost of needing a large enough room for 9 people and then the wasted time waiting for people to turn up as more often than not someone would have been late, then there would be those who could not attend due to pain…..all in all this was and is a brilliant way to go forward.
It cut down on the need for parking space as they are at a premium and would have left more space for NHS staff as they are finding it increasingly difficult to find a parking space too. The number of times I have known people drive off and miss their appointment because of not getting a parking space is vast, and this would save all the missed appointment costs.
I have also had several consultant appointments on the phone and it was great as I felt so comfortable with the consultant as I know I get white coat syndrome when visiting the hospital, as does Mr Points of Sue, and he has had several consultant appointments too due to his lung condition and it was really amazing how comfortable he felt as quite often in the run up to attending the hospital he gets worried, but not this time and one of the things we often get worked up about is the parking and we have to leave earlier to make sure we get a parking spot. This is not the fault of the hospital but rather the increase in the patients they are seeing.
We both managed to say what we wanted too with our respective consultants, and I even remember laughing with mine and it was just a delight as I was comfortable in my own home and quite often with severe pain it can be touch and go if you attend anything.
I asked the consultant due to being nosey just how many patients he managed to speak to a day and he said he was managing to speak to 20% more patients than he would do in any given day, and if you times that by 5 that is a 100% increase on what would have been a normal working week, especially as I have sat there and a patients name was called out and they had not bothered to turn up.
Now I am not saying that it should be every appointment as some need to see the consultant but if like me you can speak to one without the need to see one, then surely it must be financially sound to transfer the majority of patients to online virtual ones. It would negate the need for putting on consultant appointments and this would reduce costs, and it would also give the consultant time to get the outcome dictated and sent to the medical secretaries, again this would be a financial plus plus as it would leave the staff free to attend to other needs in the hospital.
Having spent the last year speaking to not only my GP but also my consultants, I have managed to have an MRI of the spine, attend the breast clinic and have my bloods taken without even seeing my doctor as they were able to take the time to talk to me, and they know me and the issues I have and it was easier to book a telephone consultation than a face to face one. I have also been put forward to see the podiatrist and this will be a face to face, but when I speak to the consultant again it will be over the phone, or via zoom as it is a great tool to speak with people through.
I am sure if someone who counts the pennies at the NHS put through the costs of speaking to people through zoom or on the phone, against the costs of arranging staff, the room, the time taken as appointment always go over and the time it takes the consultant to do his notes then they should pleasantly find that the cost reduces considerably.
We have this great technology so why not use where it is possible, and anything that saves the NHS money must surely be a good thing.