All health authorities/boards collect information about their waiting times for treatment and make quarterly returns to the Health Departments. Many health authorities/boards also produce bulletins showing the waiting times of their own consultants and distribute them to local GPs. Waiting time information is also published as part of the NHS Performance Tables.
If you are faced with a long wait for treatment in your own district you should:
- first go back to your own GP and ask him/her to consider referring you to another hospital where the waiting time is shorter. If your condition worsens, your GP may want to write to the original hospital to ask them to see you more quickly.
- you can also make your own enquiries to find out where the shortest waiting lists are. If your GP doesn't have this information you can:
1. telephone the Health Information Service on Tel:0800 66 55 44. You will be automatically routed to your nearest Health Information Service contact which will have details of waiting times in your part of the country. They should also be able to tell you whether your Health Authority/Boards has contracts with hospitals outside the district. There is also a National Waiting List Helpline at the College of Health on Tel:0181 983 1133.
2. check which hospital consultant has the shortest waiting list, and think about how far you would be prepared to travel.
3. ask your GP to consider referring you to a consultant in that district. Even if you do the homework for your GP, you will still have to ask him or her to contact the consultant asking whether you can be taken on as an NHS patient. If your GP is a fundholder this should be reasonably straightforward (however even fundholding GPs have their own contacts, and these usually are with local hospitals). If not the GP will need to help you get the agreement of your Health Authority to an extra-contractual referral (ECR).
4. make clear to your own local hospital whether you are able to go in at very short notice if they have a vacancy. Many hospitals have a short notice list. This means that you could take up a vacancy if someone else was unable to accept the date they were offered to come into hospital. As the hospital has very little time to fill the bed you could be telephoned and offered admission, even at a few hours notice.