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Keeping track of your health

October 2018

Team of surgeons operating
With today’s NHS you may even be able to choose your operating team

There are just too many of us needing medical treatments, from everyday care to hip and knee replacements to cancer care and all the areas offered by our NHS.

Inevitably this leads to long waiting lists, delays at seeing specialists and every so often cancelled operations. It is incredibly frustrating of course, and really worrying if you have a serious problem that needs urgent attention.

The NHS has set down maximum waiting times to try and ensure patients are looked after speedily. For instance, for anyone with suspected cancer, there should be a maximum waiting time of two weeks from the day the hospital receives the referral letter from your doctor to when you are seen.

Of course there are exceptions to this, as there are for the maximum waiting time of 18 weeks for non-urgent referrals.

Interestingly, today you have a legal right to ask to be seen or to be treated by a different provider if you are likely to wait longer than the maximum waiting time specified for your treatment. This really wasn’t the case when most of us were small.

Even better, you can also check out hospitals near you and in many cases select the one you feel would be most appropriate for you. You may even be able to choose which consultant led team you want to be in charge of your treatment, as long as that team provides the treatment you require.

Today this choice is a legal right. Again of course there are exceptions – if you need emergency treatment then that can bring in different factors.

All this personal choice is an amazing step forward and gives us much more control of our lives and treatments. But to make a good choice one needs information.

There is a wealth of information on the internet now covering everything from the latest treatment for specific conditions to the background and expertise of named consultants. It is important though to ensure you are looking at verified information.

The NHS provides a number of useful tools including this one that helps you find out about hospitals in your area.

There is also a great website that gives comparison of local waiting lists and other aspects for specific procedures.

One website Laterlife really likes has been put together by the BBC. It has an interactive tracker and shows the latest data on performance against NHS waiting times for hospitals. It gives the latest figures covering waiting time for A&E treatment, cancer care, planned operations and access to psychological treatment and shows whether the hospital has hit or missed the targets for each area and by how much.

You can also flick up and down to see which hospitals are doing the best and which are missing the most targets and so on. The data is regularly updated.

Of course, with the numbers involved and the huge range of treatments now available, things can go wrong.  In these unfortunate situations, there is now easy access to the official NHS complaints procedure.



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