Does the National Waiting List Helpline Work?

Question:  There was a depressing programme about waiting lists on Channel 4 last  night. The moral seems to be, if you want to get seen in reasonable time make sure you know somebody who works in the media and can threaten the hospital with bad publicity. However, there was also some information about the National Waiting List Helpline. Anyone who is having a long  wait to see a consultant might want to try ringing this helpline to see if  they can help. The number is 0208 983 1133.

Answer:  Once you are on the waiting list it is possible to ring and offer to take up a slot at short notice – a cancellation slot. We do this often for a family member/friend (whose health is such that it’s a sort of black joke that she has her own filing cabinet at our GP’s). The essential point with this is that you ONLY do it if you can drop everything and go when they give you a call to say that you can be seen in two days’ time or whatever. If you refuse a cancellation, you seem to go back to the end of the queue with a black mark as well.

My friend is a self-employed artist, so it’s a good ploy for her. I only use this for the ENT department which is just around the corner (literally 2 minutes’ walk) from my office. I have had 8 months wait truncated to 3 weeks by using this and being able to give a detailed plan of my time for the next few weeks. Once you get rolling on this (of course, it helps that I know quite a few of the Medical School Academics personally) they seem to trust you to do this and you get a sort of “brownie point” which seems to get you offered this facility again and again. This is in Bristol and with several provisos but may possibly work elsewhere as well. The line to take is one of helping them to utilize their time as efficiently as possible.

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