Choose and Book, part II

It’s worth pointing out at this stage that I have nothing but praise for the people who work at the sharp end of the NHS – I wouldn’t want people to get the wrong idea. So having said that, I’ll pick up where I left off…
My GP asked me which hospital I would like to go to for the gastroscopy – The Whittington (my local hospital), UCH, The Royal Free – which would I prefer? If I’d had my wits about me, or better still had I read one of M.D.’s columns in Private Eye in the waiting room, I would have asked him all sorts of stuff about clinical outcomes and how many procedures each unit carried out a year. As it was, I made my choice based on convenience – it would be easiest to get to UCH for the appointment as it is close to where I work. I was also swayed emotionally towards UCH as I happen to have been born there. My G.P. put the necessary details into his PC and printed out the details of how I could Choose and Book my appointment. Being somewhat geeky, I thought this was rather cool – log on, log in and book – what could be simpler? More fool me. That evening I tried to Choose and Book my appointment. No problem logging in, but when I clicked on the link to see the available appointment times, I got a message saying ‘There are no appointments available at the moment, please try again later’ or words to that effect. Which seemed odd – I didn’t expect to be offered an appointment the next day, but I did expect to be offered an appointment. I tried again the next day, and the same thing happened – no appointments available. At this point, patience not being one of my strong suits, I started to get annoyed. I realised that I wasn’t actually that fussed about which hospital I went to, or about being able to choose a time- all I really wanted was to have an appointment. In fact, I would have preffered just to have recieved a letter saying ‘Your appointment is at hospital X on day Y at time Z’. I had a look at the documentation and saw that there was an 08 helpine number, so I decided to give them a call and see if I could get an appointment that way. At this point, things began to get distinctly Kafkaesque…

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