Equal Access


Now that the site has been running for more than year I have had a chance to gain a fair amount of experience using the Canterbury patients forum for follow-up purposes. It is apparent that those patients who are able to access the website and interact with me (and the rest of the patients out there) in this way gain a kind of 'privileged access' to the medical services offered in my CTS clinic, getting faster feedback from me and often somewhat earlier appointments for review than they would if waiting for a new GP referral to make its way through the administration. In some cases faster access to me may in turn mean faster access to subsequent opinions, investigations and treatments too.

To some extent this is not unique to this new medium. It remains the case that articulate, motivated patients who are willing to nag their GPs, telephone adminstrators and secretaries, and write letters get more out of the NHS than those patients who are unable to push for attention in these ways. The NHS was founded however on principles of equal access and favouring some patients because they can use a computer feels a little wrong.

I would therefore like to hear some views - ideally from both patients and people on the 'inside' in the NHS - though of course, as this discussion is here on the website I am, by definition, excluding those who cannot access the web from contributing - sorry!

1) Should this medium be used at all?

2) Should contacts made through the website and resulting in a follow-up appointment be rigorously queued with equal priority to appointments being made through other communication channels?

3) Any suggestions for making things more egalitarian?

Any and all thoughts on the matter would be much appreciated. JB


Dear Dr Bland, I have been lucky enough to be a very rare user of NHS services to date. I was very pleasantly surprised to receive the referal letter from Kent and Canterbury pointing me to this website and to find so much useful information in it, including the really useful forum. It made me feel more like a private patient than an NHS one. I have been able to flag up changes in my condition and get advice without going back to my GP or make a very expensive (to the NHS) visit to A and E. I have been reassured about the treatments and feel better prepared and less anxious about the treatment that I may need to have.
Raising standards within the NHS, giving patients incredible levels of access so that they can better manage their own conditions based on professional advice has got to be encouraged,
It should be our aspiration in the NHS that GPs will make suitable referrals, with as much care and attention that we would give ourselves, to you so that you can prioritise their requests on behalf of their patients as much as you are prioritising the patients who contact you directly.
One of the big advantages of your site and forum is being able to offer appointments to people that come up at short notice, therefore getting the best use out of your clinics and NHS resources. I don't know how else you could do this without the website and forum.
So, in short, please carry on with what you are doing and raise standards to your level. We need more of this in the NHS.
Regards Natalie


Thankyou for the comments. I should probably just clarify that we do not allow first time (new) patients to self refer themselves to me through the website without the intervention of their GP. However, once patients are in the system and  being treated for CTS by my clinic we do let them, in effect, self refer for follow-up and further treatment. At present I haven't put any fixed time limit on this but that might have to be negotiated with the new comissioning groups and the trust management in the future with a set time after which a new GP referral would be needed. JB

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