stammerheadshark * blog about living with an acquired neurogenic stammer

It’s been a long time…

Posted on: August 8, 2009

…since all this happened now. I’m really starting to struggle to recall exactly when and where various doctor/consultant’s appointments took place; how I got to this position where the stammer isn’t a temporary adjustment, but a fact of everyday life.

Six months, it seems, is a very long time in the NHS. Six months where nothing has really happened. No improvement, just silent resignation.

Everyone’s so willing to pass the buck, hoping you’ll go away and stop pestering them; because it doesn’t really matter to them – patients are just names. Nothing more, and god forbid these patients let you know otherwise.

Well, the NHS just doesn’t permit that kind of abuse of its staff, does it?! Not that those staff members’ wilful neglect of their patients would ever be perceived as abuse. Never cuts both ways, does it?

I’m rambling. I’m just cross, I guess. Got a letter through from the new consultant neurologist that I’ve been assigned with the date and time of my first appointment.

First sentence, “It might not always be possible to see the consultant himself, in which case a member of his clinical team will see you.” Great.

So the appointment I struggled to book, in spite of the administator’s sloth (more on this in a minute), that had a three month lead in time and one available time slot (“Is that time alright?” It’ll have to be, I’m not waiting another three months…) doesn’t actually mean that I’ll be seen by the neurologist.

It’s not that I doubt the consultant’s team is very professional; it’s more that after the last time I encountered this, I found myself sat in front of the consultant’s clinic administrator. Essentially a glorified secretary, and entirely incapable of offering any sound medical advice.

Wonderful, exactly what I’d spent 4 hours sat in a waiting room for. His advice? That I make another appointment to see the consultant at his next clinic in two months time. It seems as though they keep making patients go to pointless appointments in order to spin the illusion of treating them without actually ever having to do so.

So, anyway. My new appointment was only secured after a marathon effort to contact the clinic. Essentially, upon returning home from Glastonbury I’d received a letter from this new consultant (‘s secretary – you didn’t think that they did anything themselves now, did you?!) asking me to contact them on receipt of the letter.

I was to contact them within seven days of the letter being sent or be discharged from the clinic I’d only just been referred to. The inefficacy of Royal Mail to deliver second class mail as it is, and the fact that it was the middle of the summer and highly likely that people are on holidays, this seemed incredibly ridiculous in itself.

The only way to contact the administrator was via telephone. Great, as if strangers don’t have enough difficulties understanding my stutter on the phone anyway; at least my speech hadn’t completely disappeared that week.

It said to ring between 8am-6pm, so I did. I rang up at about 8.15am to make the appointment, to be told that the specific person I needed to speak to wasn’t in yet.

She doesn’t normally get in until half nine, duck“. Fantastic. What’s the point of telling people they can make appointments from 8am then? It’s not like patients have lives they have to fit this stuff around, have to go to work themselves. Apparently.

Told to ring back in my lunch hour, that’s exactly what I did. Ringing for over 10 minutes, and still no one’s picking up.  “Great, they’ve gone on their lunch”, I thought. Positively fed up by now and determined to make the sodding appointment “before being discharged from the clinic”, I rang again.

Finally, someone wearily picked up. Asking for the person I needed to speak to I was told that she “wasn’t available”. Amazing. “You asked me to ring back at this time to speak to this person – which is what I’m doing“, I told her. Oh. Right. Suddenly the clinic administrator was miraculously “available” to speak to me. How convenient.

So excuse me if I’m getting a little weary of the elusive games the benevolent National Health Service plays with its patients. It’d just be nice to actually see someone who’s capable of helping me, let alone able to help.

After the last six months of constant disappointments, I’m not holding my breath.

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