NHS in Meltdown: 31 Week Waiting List To See a Cardiologist 130

I am afraid this is a personal medical story, but I think it makes a very damning point about the state of the NHS. There is no sensible way to tell it without giving an uncomfortable (I suspect for both of us) level of medical detail about myself.

I had two collapses very early in the New Year, one with loss of consciousness of over ten minutes. On the second occasion we called 999, and the response was superb – a paramedic in less than five minutes and and ambulance in less than ten.

In A & E, I had an ECG and x-ray and was told there was an indication of minor heart failure. I then collapsed again and had entered major atrial fibrillation. I was rushed up to the critical conditions unit, where the condition responded to injections. I was kept in for the next six days. The diagnosis was paroxysmic atrial fibrillation. I was discharged on a dose of 1.25mg of Bisoprolol a day, 2 x 50mg of Flecanide and 2 x 150 mg of Pradaxa. The bisoprolol, even at that low dose, puts me into bradycardia at about 50 beats per minute, but the fibrillation immediately returns without it – that was the conclusion of the six days admission.

All these drugs were new to me.

I was slightly concerned that in six days in hospital, my total face time with a cardiologist was about three minutes – one sighting of two minutes and two of about thirty seconds. In virtually none of that three minutes did the cardiologist address me, but rather the junior doctors and nurses. There was no echocardiogram done.

On discharge the cardilogist told his team that he needed to see me again in six weeks to assess my progress on the medicines. I was discharged on 10 January and therefore was surprised to receive an appointment for 7 May. I telephoned to query this, and the cardiologist’s secretary told me that she knew six weeks was requested, but that 7 May was the first available appointment. I asked if she realised that was 17 weeks not 6, and she replied that was within the allotted NHS target time.

Unfortunately I have been feeling constantly ill since starting on these medicines. Dizzy, faint and nauseous, with severe palpitations. I get very tired very quickly, and fall asleep instantly on putting my head down at any time of day or night.

On discharge from hospital the consultant also ordered a 24 hour ECG (3 week waiting list) and contrast echocardioram (8 week waiting list). Having now had these investigations, I have no idea what the results were and apparently will not be told until I see the cardiologist.

I have twice been to see the G.P. to explain how ill I am feeling. The G.P. said he would write to the cardiologist to see if the 7 May appointment could be brought forward.

Then yesterday I received a letter giving a change of cardiologist appointment – to 17 July! That is a 32 week wating list. It is exactly 26 weeks – half a year – after the date at which the cardiologist said I should be seen again!

In the meantime, I have no idea whether I feel so ill because of the drugs, or because of progressive heart failure. I have no idea what were the results of my tests. I have no idea of the prognosis. I have no idea as to the cause of the paroxysmal atrial fibrillation in the first place.

I have to say that my experience of the NHS in London was entirely different to this. When I had heart problems in 2004, all apponitments and tests and an eventual procedure were carried out extremely promptly – within days – and I at no stage felt left in the dark.

Is this an extreme example of a postcode lottery, or has the NHS declined so drastically in the last few years (or both)? My strong suspicion is that NHS resources are more freely available in more affluent areas, and that being treated out of the QEQM hospital in Margate is probably as bad as the NHS gets (I know those outside S.E. England may find this hard to believe, but Margate is a centre of serious poverty and social deprivation).

Please print this article out and keep it. In the event my heart packs in before I see that cardiologist, please douse it in petrol and stack it against the door of No. 10.

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130 thoughts on “NHS in Meltdown: 31 Week Waiting List To See a Cardiologist

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  • LastBlueBell

    @John Goss,

    I do not think it is constructive to look back into the past for guidence in this. For better and worse, the world has changed, our societies have changed, and, our institutions have to change with it.

    But most important, we must change our systems so that they are much better in sync with our basic human nature, which neither the public or private modell are today.

    Humans are by nature neither egotistical bastards nor generous saints, we can be both, some of the time, but mostly we all fall somewhere in between, and the degree of selfishness and self centered egoism will vary from situation to situation, context to context.

    If I understand the science correctly, most of the time this is performed by subconsious processes, which means, that you in your daily life often are not even aware of this, (an absolut majority of decisions you take during a day are subconsious), and you will (if need be), only consiuosly rationalise specific decision afterwards.

    Public ownership has some strenghts in this regard I believe, private ownership others, but it is the glaring deficiencies in both of them, that must be evident for everybody today.

    This is why I think it is our instutions and organisations that must evolve, rather then ourself, because, (in simple terms), we can not.

    In all humility,

  • A Node

    Good luck Craig. You need to be calm but that is almost impossible when you can’t resolve your worries that you may have a serious health problem. Using sedatives should be a last resort. Perhaps you should start a thread about spring daffodils or cuddly teddy bears and we can all post soothing comments.

    The fact that Jeremy Hunt is in charge of the NHS speaks volumes about the government’s attitude towards it. That man was caught red-handed selling us out to Rupert Murdoch, but a rigged enquiry said “Tough luck, you can’t prove that” and instead of being sacked, he was promoted.

    A guy that has a track record of favouring big business over the interests of voters is put in charge of our health service which is fighting for its life (and ours) against being taken over by big business. I’ll add that to the print-off before putting it in the stack outside No. 10.

  • Indigo


    So sorry to hear of your health problems and the lamentable non-treatment that you’ve so far received.

    A quick Google search did turn up one forum where a contributor (F4J), speaking of the same hospital,wrote, “Margate/Thanet is at the very bottom of the NHS postcode lottery.”

    Here’s the link should anyone be interested:


    I note lots of comments above about the superiority of the French health care system but have to say that generalisations are really not helpful. You got excellent treatment in London – that also was NHS treatment. Having lived and worked in France for nearly 25 years I could give myriad examples of excellent treatment but also of treatment that was so bad as to be, in one instance, even life threatening (a rare cancer – my husband’s – in stage IV that was diagnosed as asthma and treated with Ventolin!)

    Clearly, although there are problems in the NHS that need sorting, like many I don’t feel that privitisation is the solution for its ills. In fact, the private medical sector in France is far less successful in its treatment of serious conditions than the public.

    There was a suggestion above, I think, that there may be a formal procedure that you could follow to appeal against the totally unacceptable delay in follow-up treatment. If that is the case it might be a way forward.

    Bon courage!

  • johnf

    I hope you get to see a specialist much quicker, Craig, and that you will be all right.

    The NHS has been weakened and broken up by successive governments for a long time now as with all the other once public utilities. The City of London seems to think it has the divine right to tax us all through our services.

  • Clark

    Craig, best wishes to you. Haven’t you’ve been away a few times since the New Year? Did you seem to be healthier when you were away? Pay attention to what your body is telling you, as “the system” doesn’t seem inclined to help you much.

  • nevermind

    Far from wanting to replace your medicinal kosh with a more traditional means of raising pulse and blood pressure, this is the sort of traditional and curious health regime that makes the difference between Bavarians and Prussians, but there are finer nuances.

    I hope that these pictures of downhill sledging, rather than sledding, will help with indicating how cold it is going to be down your way today and tomorrow.



  • Richard

    Go private. You’ll get better quality care.

    The problem with much of the NHS is that, like the banks, it’s “too big to fail”. Hospitals that deliver poor care *should* fail, and fail fast, so that they can do no more harm to patients, and can be replaced by something better.

    But the survival of the institution is considered more important that the outcome for the patients.

    Consider: if a restaurant does poorly on food hygiene, the customers desert it en masse, and it is bust in a week. A month later, something better will come along. But a hospital can’t ever be allowed to fail, let alone fail fast… so there’s no pressure to fix the problems, and patient care can remain terrible for years.

    (The same applies to failing schools – they get 5 years to turn around, during which they permanently destroy the education of the kids who attend.)

  • Vronsky

    Do as much research as you can by yourself. Google the drugs they’re giving you, find out if the adverse responses you experience are commonly reported. Doctors hate you to do this. First, they are correct, it really is unwise, as you don’t have the knowledge to interpret mish-mash on the internet; but second, the signal is sometimes so very strong that you can’t mistake it, and your doctor doesn’t see it because he isn’t you.

    I got away from two medications: one caused intense coughing (found out from a guy at work who’d had the same problem) another caused bradycardia – spotted that one myself, I’m a runner, know my heart rate, wear an HRM as a wristwatch. Stuff I do needs a heart rate around 140-150 so I told them I wasn’t taking any more of that particular concoction. They found me something else.

    I don’t know if Jemand’s suggestion of a Cuban break is sarcastic, but it’s not a bad idea. My own thought would be walking in Gozo. The author of the definitive guide has the same name as me – funny, that. Go and swim at Dwejra.

    Don’t be so scared of dying that you don’t live. At least hang in there to 2014 and watch the pillars of the temple fall.

  • guano

    Could be worse, Craig. Just when Chavez thought he was going to get some rest they put him back to work on display. I get some of your symptoms. Thanks for reminding me to book an appointment 2/3 rds of a year in advance of needing that appointment. My mum found herself in the QE in Birmingham having lived with a heart problem in the sticks for many years. They got her right as rain in no time. Get up to London asap and look after yourself from now on, please.

  • Clark

    My dad was an NHS administrator. In the ’70s he was the treasurer of a general hospital. After one of the periodic “NHS Reorganisations” he became a District Finance Officer, a district consisting of various hospitals. In both jobs, he was allocated a budget from the tier above, which he stretched as far as he could among departments, and after the reorganisation, the departments of the various hospitals. “I’m always robbing Peter to pay Paul”, he’d say.

    He always cursed the politicians. He often said that the NHS was “used as a political football”. He’d say, “as soon as I have everything running smoothly, some order comes down from on-high and I have to change it all again. Why can’t they just leave things be? It doesn’t matter what the system is; we’ll get it running well after a while, but then the politicians tell us that it all has to change.”

  • Ben Franklin

    paroxysmal atrial fibrillation—-unknown cause…..that’s why they call it medical ‘practice’.

    Craig; Sometimes caffeine brings it on. It may not be the cause, but it exacerbates. The quick response time is necessary. The meds call the first hour ‘Golden Time’ because it is critical to treat in first hour. Not sure how NHS works with specialist referrals. Is it possible to bypass Dr visit and go direct to clinic for ultra-sound?

  • Surack

    Hi Craig – I am horrified but not surprised to hear about your experience but before booking a flight to Cuba or a place on the ferry why not phone the consultant’s secretary and say if an appointment is cancelled you’ll take it?

    When I lived in Hertfordshire my GP often referred patients to London hospitals as they had shorter waiting lists than our local hospital. Can they still do this? It might be worth asking.

    Apologies if you’ve already thought of these suggestions !

  • Mary - for Truth and Justice

    Just a few entries from a ‘Kent’ search of the News Round Up page over the recent past on the Keep Our NHS Public website. We have been warning of this for some time.

    Thursday 6th December 2012
    Public Service
    CCGs: consultancy firms ‘making millions’.

    Private consultancy firms are being paid millions of pounds in the run up to clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) coming into operation, it has been claimed. Companies such as PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and Capita have been given around £26m to date to cover training costs and to make up the skills gap within primary care trusts (PCTs), according to the publication Pulse which got the details via a Freedom of Information request. The data gathered showed that so far this financial year PCTs had spent an average of £173,000 with private consultancy firms. PCTs in Oxfordshire, Derby City, Buckinghamshire, Peterborough and Portsmouth had spent over £2m on external support since April 2010. Newcastle West CCG chair Dr Guy Pilkington was quoted as saying that all private consultants were taken on to support specific clinical projects due to lack of staff in-house and this was at NHS rates. He added: “Will we be requiring consultants in the future ? Probably, but far less once we go live.” Pulse also quoted Dr Paul Hobday, a GP in West Kent, as saying: “This was already happening, but the reforms have given licence for this to take off in a bigger way. The easiest route is to farm it out and the taxpayer pays the bill.”

    Health Service Journal
    Serco named as preferred bidder for East Kent deal.

    Serco Group has been selected as preferred bidder for a contract to provide integrated facilities management services to East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust. The contract, which is expected to be signed in the next few weeks and is due to start in July 2012, has a total estimated value of approximately £140m over 10 years. It comprises an initial seven-year period and a maximum three-year extension, according to Serco. Around 700 people will be employed on the contract, the majority of which will be transferred from the existing provider and the trust with their terms and conditions protected. Serco will deliver a range of services to the trust’s three acute hospitals, two community hospitals and several small clinics in the East Kent area. In addition to cleaning and patient catering, Serco will be responsible for ward housekeeping, retail services, portering, security, switchboard, helpdesk, staff accommodation, pest control and waste management.


    Friday 21st October 2011

    Kentish Gazette
    Health bosses receive petition to save our baby unit.

    A petition against planned closures of birthing centres in east Kent has been officially presented to health bosses. More than 450 signatures were collected over six weeks, opposing measures to drastically overhaul maternity services. Since June, our Save Our Baby Unit campaign has highlighted the growing opposition to proposals to close birthing centres at both the Kent & Canterbury Hospital and Buckland Hospital in Dover. The preferred option put forward by the NHS would be to stop births at Canterbury and Dover, but retain midwife-led antenatal care, day clinics and postnatal support. A new midwife-led service would be opened at the QEQM Hospital in Margate while capacity would be increased at a similar unit at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford. The move would force Canterbury mothers-to-be into long journeys to hospital and mean Kent’s only city would disappear from birth certificates.


    Tuesday 26th April 2011

    BBC News
    Patient watchdog questions Pembury Hospital PFI value.

    The governor of a patients’ watchdog has questioned the value for money of a new hospital in west Kent. The £225m Pembury Hospital, near Tunbridge Wells, was built through a private finance initiative (PFI). John Ashelford, the governor of Kent Link, said under the terms of the agreement, the NHS must make payments of £20m a year for 32 years. The Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust said PFI was the only way to get the hospital built. The 512-bed hospital has 10 wards and was built alongside the old hospital, which will be demolished this year. Mr Ashelford said the repayments were a “massive commitment”. He said: “It’s £20m a year but every year it’s going to be indexed by inflation and the numbers will keep growing. There’s no guarantee that the funding they receive from the public purse will match that increase.”

    Read more …

    \Links within

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!)

    Well, just back from the Duchesse de Guermantes, wonderful thé dansant; interesting conversation with Elstir and some divine foxes with Gilberte….and guess who dropped in – the young Edward Wales (d’ceased)!


    Seriously now : Mary, do you know the meaning of the word shame?

    Your first post on this new thread was a 30 line rant about the NHS accompanied by a couple of side-swipes. Only in your second post did you see fit to offer Craig sympathy and wishes. And then you went on to attack me in your next two.

    You’ll be aware that some dogs have their tails docked and that hens’ beaks are sometimes cropped (if that’s the word). It is really time that your viper-like fangs were drawn. In the meanwhile, be ashamed.


    La vita è bella, life is good! (keep the true path viper-free)

  • Mary - for Truth and Justice

    Craig always has my best and genuinewishes in whatever order and circumstance they are sent.

    For the sake of his health and blood pressure, I am not engaging with the idiocy of the troll.

  • Durak

    Best wishes and sincerely hope for a complete recovery. Seems like yesterday the long summers of the early ’00’s lazing around the bars on broadway, eating in the ragu and hitting Juliano’s for a night of pleasure . How times change. Good luck mate.

  • Mary - for Truth and Justice

    That should have read… for the sake of Craig’s health and blood pressure, I am not engaging with the idiocy of the troll.

  • nevermind

    Now that you have admitted to being a troll habnocock, Queensbury rules, you and me, anywhere within 100 miles of Norwich chum.
    Don’t tell, you’re too busy to get your arse whooped by a 60 year old, shocks.

  • Kempe

    Postcode lottery I’m afraid. A guy I know was in and out of Whipps Cross for about eight months and they were unable to fathom out what was wrong with him. More than once they sent him home in a worse condition than he was when he went in until his consultant lost patience and got him a referral to the Royal Free. They took quite literally ten minutes to diagnose liver cancer and couldn’t understand how Whipps Cross could possibly have missed it.

    One year on and his condition has actually improved but eight months during which the disease could’ve been checked have been lost.

    Hope it works out for you Craig.

  • sid

    Craig…I think someone is getting someone in the NHS to finish you off. Finishing off the job they tried when you were in Uzbekistan. Do you think Gulnara has a hand in this

  • Parky

    A few years back I had some problems with my local hospital, poor administration, lost paperwork, double bookings and a attitude of couldn’t really care less by the staff. I asked my GP to transfer me to the main university teaching hospital which involved an hour more travelling, but I received much better treatment there. My advice is to speak to your GP as he/she is the gatekeeper to the NHS services and can direct you to more appropriate hospital if required.

    From my experiences as a user of NHS hospitals I see that we are now treating the world’s poor as well as UK tax payers and services are stretched. I am amazed that translation and interpretation services are provided to non-English speakers free of charge ! Quite amazing, I doubt if private hospitals do this for their customers.

    In two years it will be another General Election and I’m under no doubt that Labour will be returned once more to power and if the whole lot hasn’t been privatised by then, they will damage the NHS even more. One way or another it would seem private health care is invertible in the UK.

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