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Professor Hamblin (July 2002 JRSM1), writing from the Royal Bournemouth Hospital, lists a number of favourable circumstances that helped Dorset achieve a sustained reduction in waiting times. Improvements in the statistics of waiting lists and waiting times are important politically, and one hopes they will be echoed by the experience of patients.
I have an elderly relative living on her own in Christchurch, Dorset. Towards the end of March this year her GP told her he would refer her for a medical outpatient appointment. In the second week of May she received a letter from the hospital saying that the specialist ‘... has seen your doctor's letter and asked us to place you on the outpatient waiting list. We will write to you four weeks before your appointment is due advising you of the date, time [etc.]’. In the second week of July she received a further letter, stating: ‘... we are now in a position to arrange your appointment. Would you please telephone us at the earliest opportunity to make your Outpatient Appointment.’ She telephoned and received an appointment for mid-August.
Does the waiting time start from the referral letter, from the time the consultant had asked to have her placed on the outpatient waiting list, or from the allocation of an appointment? Four and a half months, three months or one month? Her most anxious time was during the first few weeks before she received any response from the hospital at all.
During her waiting time, she spent sixteen days as an inpatient in the same hospital for another matter, during which time she asked whether the medical referral might be dealt with while she was there. This did not happen.