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.

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

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  • A Node

    How Jeremy Hunt auditioned for the post of Secretary of State for Health ……

    “Our ambition should be to break down the barriers between private and public provision, in effect denationalising the provision of health care in Britain.”

    “Instead of tinkering with a fundamentally broken machine, it (the Conservative Party) should offer to update the model.”

    “We should fund patients, either through the tax system or by way of universal insurance, to purchase health care from the provider of their choice.”

    Some quotes from a 2005 book: “Direct Democracy: An Agenda for a New Model Party”, co-authored by Jeremy Hunt.

  • Frazer

    Craig old boy…you looked quite chipper when I was down for the weekend…probably on account of me throwing alcohol down your gullet…..maybe we should revise travel plans for April…you know where I will be..had no idea you were so poorly…you hide it well and are incredibly upbeat about current projects…do look after yourself old man…I will be incredibly annoyed if you snuff it before I get to see you next time…maybe a side trip to Cuba as suggested might be on the cards…worked for a bunch of 9/11 vets compliments of Michael Moore…besides, you are about the only one of the famiglia who thinks it hilarious when I fall over completely hammered in a bar…what the hell would I do without you bro !!

  • Mary - for Truth and Justice

    Lansley with Milton, Burns and Burstow set it (the Health and Social Care Act 2012) in train and Hunt completes the process. He looks like a startled rabbit in the headlights but is far from stupid.

    Hunt and Elms later sold their interest in Profile to concentrate on directory publishing. Together they founded a company now known as Hotcourses, a major client of whose is the British Council. Hotcourses has subsequently provided financial support to Hunt’s parliamentary office.


    In April 2012, immediately following David Cameron’s statement that he would not associate himself with anyone who carried out “aggressive tax avoidance”, the Daily Telegraph disclosed that Hunt had reduced his tax bill by over £100,000 by receiving dividends from Hotcourses in the form of property which was promptly leased back to the company.[18] The dividend in specie was paid just before a 10% rise in dividend tax and Hunt was not required to pay stamp duty on the property.



  • R.T.G.

    Mr Murray, the last sentence of this from ‘NetDoctor’ might be of interest. I think you can get a referral from your GP to see your existing (or another preferred) Consultant Cardiologist privately, for a fee. I think the Cardiologist should then look after the progress of your condition while you are being tested/treated by the NHS at a recommended suitable hospital. A friend has taken this route and is still alive to tell the tale.

    “If you are worried about your diagnosis and there is a long waiting time to see the consultant, you may want to book your initial appointment to see a consultant privately.
    This consultation typically costs between £120 and £200 and is normally paid on the day, or settled soon afterwards if no further treatment is needed.
    Once you have a diagnosis, your consultant will write to your GP to update them as to what has been discussed and planned.
    If you find you require surgery, you can ask the hospital to give you a fixed price for surgery. This will include the doctors’ fees and the hospital costs for the operation.
    At this stage, you can decide not to go ahead and transfer back to the NHS under the care of that consultant.”

    Read more: http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/health-services-guide/private-healthcare.htm#ixzz2NAkQL2XG
    Follow us: @NetDoctor on Twitter | NetDoctorUK on Facebook

  • Mary - for Truth and Justice

    Hunt set this charity up.


    It has the following trustees:

    Baroness Estelle Morris was NuLabour Education.


    It spent about £300k pa

  • Tom

    I know the QEQM well, as a two of my relatives had cancer. Most of the staff are good and kind, and doing their best, but it took three visits to A&E before one of my relatives was diagnosed. (He had been offered a distant scan but his condition worsened in the meantime.) Even in an emergency, the all-important MRI scans had to wait until working hours resumed on Monday morning, which I could never understand, nor that the specialist doctors are unable to work shifts like the nursing staff. I am sure that applies across the NHS, though.
    Anyway, I wish you well.

  • Frazer

    @Mark..giving zilch away mate…just concerned for the old sod..my whisky drinking companion of many years may be about to snuff it..but he has a tendancy to poke a couple of double v fingers and carry on..no doubt he will outlast all of us ! Thank god as he owes me about £5000 in malt !

  • Jay

    Take care of yourself Craig. Remember to self medicate only for medicinal purposes.
    The older you get the more you need to be good to yourself.

    I don`t know but you must exercise, drink the right fluids and consume the right amount of the correct food for you.

    The hospitals are very good and if they thought you were in danger they would have you in, I am confident that they are presently capable of giving care when it is most needed.

    From experience if you had of stayed in a bed you may been fast tracked, as it was you have now fallen down the list.

    What really is important is that a “large portion” of the population are abusing there health, and a some are seeking medical treatment for selfish reasons (big boobs, winky removal.)

    Our health service is now under considerable pressure and it will only increase we need to be efficient and as people we need to be:

    Health conscious not Wealth conscious

    To thinks how most of our lifestyles could be improved with the right education and social conditioning, thus freeing up services.

    Get well soon Craig.

  • CE

    Czesc Habba, jak sie masz?

    Pan CE! 🙂

    I am lucky enough to have a lovely polski partner.

    I should really be fluent by now, but it is a bugger of a language to master.

    Na Zdrowie


    Despite my sister working for the NHS, I’m generally pretty ignorant on the detail of health matters(or all matters, I’m sure some would agree), but I like the idea of the Health Service being free at the point of delivery and have yet to be convinced that any alternatives can safeguard this vital aspect of the NHS.

    Being young(ish) and reasonably healthy(touchwood), I haven’t had too much first hand experience of the NHS, although I am told Aberdeen comes off rather well in the postcode lottery.

  • technicolour


    Sorry if you know all this already. It doesn’t seem as though the consultant would have had time for a google, and you might not have felt up to one. It’s quite possibly the drugs, it seems, though I wouldn’t let this stop me from calling an ambulance.


    Side effects (1 in 10 people):

    “Blurred or double vision, feeling dizzy or light-headed, vertigo (a spinning feeling), feeling sleepy

    If this happens, do not drive or use tools or machines

    Feeling or being sick, abdominal pain

    Eat simple meals – avoid rich or spicy food. Try taking your doses after you have eaten some food”



    “Less serious side effects of BISOPROLOL may include:

    -dry mouth, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain;
    – feeling tired or weak;
    – sleep problems (insomnia);
    – drowsiness, dizziness, spinning sensation;
    – joint or muscle pain;
    – mild itching or skin rash

    This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Tell your doctor about any unusual or bothersome side effect.”

    More urgently, according to drugs.com/interactions-check

    “Using flecainide together with bisoprolol may have additive effects. Contact your doctor if you experience dizziness, slow or irregular heartbeats, fainting, or palpitations. You may need a dose adjustment or special tests to safely use both medications. It is important to tell your doctor about all other medications you use, including vitamins and herbs. Do not stop using any medications without first talking to your doctor.”

    They class the interaction as ‘Moderately clinically significant. Usually avoid combinations; use it only under special circumstances.’

    And similar advice here:

    If it’s not ambulance level, and your own doctor isn’t allowed to/won’t assess your drugs and monitor you, I would consider a private doctor if you can. It might cost for one session but they are able to look at and prescribe alternatives quickly.

    It might be that Digoxin would make a good substitute for both Flecainaide and Bisoprolol (which mainly seem to be prescribed as alternatives for each other). Digoxin doesn’t seem to interact with Pradaxa and the side effects seem less severe.

    Pradaxa itself is the new warfarin, and there are arguments that warfarin, while less convenient than Pradaxa, and with its own problems, is also, unlike Pradaxa, quickly reversible and proven to be safer?

    Can look further if you like, but otherwise hope you get some decent attention and information quickly.

    all best.

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!)

    bardzo dobrze CE (“bawie sie” z Maryja “zmija” 🙂 ), a ty? I gratuluje dla tej polski pani!

    Back to the fray tomorrow, eh. Dobranoc!


    Zycie jest piekna!

  • Ex Pat


    “Heart disease need never exist and if it does exist it need never progress.”

    “Three weeks to heart attack proof.”

    “By age 60 every male eating a Western diet has heart disease and should be treated as such.” “By age 70, every woman.” Heart disease and strokes from clogged arteries are 50% of all deaths per year. 240k of 480k in the UK. 1.5m of 3m in the US annually.

    6 minute version – Professor Peter Lewis of Cardiff with Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn (Olympic rowing gold medal winner, Cleveland Clinic surgeon (retired) and all-round good egg. Really!) – Youtube –


    62 minutes – longer version – ‘Make Yourself Heart Attack Proof’ – Youtube –




    Amazon – Dr. Esselstyn’s book –


    It works. Ask me – and Professor Lewis above – how we know.

    Life, better than the alternative? Not for those fatheads – many severely ill including those who have heart attacks, stents and even coronary bypasses – who ignore that truth.

    Bismarck – “Some fools say that they like to learn from experience. I like to learn from the experience of others.” Nice guy! ; )

  • Ex Pat


    SO. In confidence, just between you and me Craig, is this a theoretical situation or a real situation?

    Did you really only see a cardiologist for 2-3 minutes? Did you really then rely on a non-happening appointment with a cardiologist about whose reputation and qualifications and professional regard you apparently know nothing?

    Are you really waiting for the NHS to sort out a life-threatening cock-up.

    Or are you making an interesting straw-man argument???

    If Really, you might stand on the principle of living or dying by the NHS another day. While handing some shekels to a cardiologist as a private patient post-haste.


    (*1) Further, if you haven’t already worked that out – a comment from Richard Curtis – Spike – ‘Notting Hill’ –



    If Richard Curtis doesn’t convince – and when does he? – how about this? The Dalai Lama was asked what should you do if someone is trying to kill you?

    Answer – You can’t practise non-violence tomorrow if you are dead. So defend yourself if someone is trying to kill you. No flies on the D-Lama. ; )

    – On Nonviolence – ‘Ten Questions for the Dalai Lama’ –


    Best of luck with your decision. Seriously hope it was a ‘theoretical question’. See (*1) above. Repeat until answer correct.

    And it would be nice to think that you paid more than a blind bit of notice to Esselstyn’s advice. Though you were under the weather at the time!

  • Adriana

    Every day living with the symptoms and the uncertainty must be agony. To think of that going on for months is dreadful. My thoughts are with you, Craig.

  • BrianFujisan

    Back to the fray tomorrow, eh. Dobranoc

    Whatever happened concern for Craig’s health You little C%nt

    Càite bheil an taigh beag?

  • Ex Pat


    Can’t say anything about the relevance of this diet approach to electrical problems of the heart.

    For those with regular old atheroschlerosis – clogged arteries due to the Western diet – cardiologists are, ER, ‘less useful’, imo, if one wants to use the Esselstyn, Ornish, McDougall low fat diet approach that has been _proven_ to work. ymmv. Younger may better.

    Largely because doctors get a couple of hours of nutrition training in 5 years of medical school! No, Really! : (

    ‘A Challenging Second Opinion – McDougall’s Medicine’, by Dr. John McDougall is very good.

    It describes the various heart tests and gives advice on whether and in what circumstances to let doctors give you them, because of the, ER, pathway that puts you on. To stents, bypasses, ‘pumphead’ and death. ‘Course if one has just had a heart attack one is in a (very) different boat than an ‘Oops’ on an EKG test.

    ‘Pathway’ now a (rightly) frightening word in NHS-speak. ; )

    You do, however, need nearly ‘the full of your health’ to read, digest and make a good decision with these books.

    ‘A Challenging Second Opinion – McDougall’s Medicine’ by Dr. John McDougall – Amazon –


    Esselstyn’s book had a slow take off from 2007, but word of mouth must work because it now has 500 _posted_ highly positive recommendations on Amazon (US). Assume 100 or 1000 times as many satisfied users? Verdict – It’s a masterpiece of its type. It was ghostwritten by an amazing writer and there is not a spare word in it. Yet it includes every key fact read in six or so other books. But it reads as extremely succinct, spare even and that’s only the first third.

    The rest is amazingly good recipes for the diet that Dr. E recommends. All in all, if one has a heart problem that diet can cure, it’s a one stop shop.

    ‘The McDougall Program for a Healthy Heart,’ by Dr. John McDougall is worth looking at.

    Someone here bought everything by Ornish, everything by McDougall and it was a year later Esselstyn published his book, which would be the first to buy, imo, and could be sufficient as ‘the only’ if one wished.

  • CE

    Bardzo Dobre, dzieki Habba! 😉

    I have had the pleasure to visit Poland on numerous occasions, an amazing country, full of strong, kind-hearted people, once you get past the scary aggressive language!:-)

    And I’m sure Craig would challenge me, and I may be biased, but I have yet to visit a country where the women are as beautiful.

    Get well soon Craig, you will be needed at the forefront of the battle for independence.

  • BrianFujisan

    Nice one A Node…Wee Bullshit Cretin.. Where are you from My Friend..We Love Vatersay

  • Ex Pat



    But ‘someone’ is a big girl’s blouse when it comes to letting a nice man shove a coat hanger up his leg. The “This’ll be just like you’ve had a couple of (good) drinks,” the warm towels (no, really!) and the flirty chatty nurse (by design, to relax the, ER, victim) were ‘nae bother’. ; )

    But feeling the coathanger in the chest might have been more than a tad worrying without said drug-induced ‘relaxation’. (Gulp! – “If he nicks an artery on the turn we won’t, ER, be fathering any more children … never mind ‘Good night Vienna’.”).

    Waiting a couple of weeks for the plastic thingamajig holding one’s femoral artery shut to be absorbed is also interesting. Should it fail one imagines that one’ll be either pressing very hard, in public, looking like a serious pervert, while dialing 999, or spraying the walls – and everyone around you on the Tube – bright red. Or bleeding out in minutes. ‘Buh-ha-wun.’ “Not a lot of fun.”

    Ymmv. ; )

    All in all, perhaps not the preferred method for a drug-induced high. Especially in Yankland where they _will_ stiff you with a 15k bill – and then settle for 6k – after 6 months of argy-bargy, during which time you’re supposed to be ill, but need the full of your health to deal with the Buggers. Nae fun at all, really.

    ‘Course finding out it was a false alarm and that ‘diet and exercise can fix this’ wasn’t so bad. Not bad at all. Especially compared to the alternatives. Cheap? At 6k? Not really!

    Welcome to the Medical Industrial Complex, son. (ER, Layer Cake? Ed.) –

    Arise, take up thy bed and sin no more / ‘eat yer greens’ / don’t choose the muppet option. “Amen” indeed!


  • Mary - for Truth and Justice

    Yes Brian Fujisan They are so pig ignorant that they don’t know it is considered impolite, when in company, to use a different language to the rest of the company. I could not be bothered to put the stuff through the translate tool but I am guessing that my name precedes the smiley. What pathetic school playground occupants.

    The Chief Medical Officer has a initiative against the excessive use of anti-biotics and is calling for better education for the prescribers. I agree having just read of the C. difficile cases at the new PFI hospital at Pembury/Maidstone trust.

    However did she speak about the use of antibiotics in stock rearing and factory farming of unfortunate creatures like chickens and pigs?

    Antibiotics Causing Resistant Infections and Maybe Obesity and Allergies
    by Martha Rosenberg / November 16th, 2012

    One of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy’s (D-MA) last legislative fights was about the overuse of livestock antibiotics. “It seems scarcely believable that these precious medications could be fed by the ton to chickens and pigs,” he wrote in a bill called the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act of 2007 (PAMTA). Over 70 percent of antibiotics go to livestock, not to people, said the PAMTA bill, a figure the drug industry refutes. “These precious drugs aren’t even used to treat sick animals. They are used to fatten pigs and speed the growth of chickens. The result of this rampant overuse is clear: meat contaminated with drug-resistant bacteria sits on supermarket shelves all over America,” said Kennedy.


    Eggs have also been assailed for their germ content, in addition to their nutritional content, thanks to their modern production methods–30,000 or more caged hens stacked on top of each other over their own manure. The FDA reports that egg operations are so festooned with salmonella and other bacteria that during inspections, it found a hatchery injecting antibiotics directly into the eggs of laying hens, presumably to take the offensive with germ control.

    Would eggs from such antibiotic-treated hens also have antibiotic residues? Yes, says an article in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry which reports that “detectable residues were observed in eggs derived from enrofloxacin-treated hens” as well as “yolks from hens treated with enrofloxacin.”

    Clearly there are more concerns about the safety of eggs and especially commercially produced eggs than those addressed in this week’s article in the British Medical Journal.


  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!)

    Brian Fujisan (01h13) wrote :

    “Back to the fray tomorrow, eh. Dobranoc

    Whatever happened concern for Craig’s health You little C%nt”

    It may be difficult for an inferior brain like yours to understand, but it is possible for the human mind to have more than one thought in it at a time. Thus one can feel sympathy for Craig’s situation and at the same time continue the useful and salutary task of pointing to the foolishness of certain posts. And, iceing on th cake, one can even do this without using four letter words.

    Crawl back under your futon and think about it. Emerge once you have understood and repented.


    La vita è bella, life is good (send chumps packing)

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!)

    @ Mary (bright and early at 07h56) :

    “Yes Brian Fujisan They are so pig ignorant that they don’t know it is considered impolite, when in company, to use a different language to the rest of the company. I could not be bothered to put the stuff through the translate tool but I am guessing that my name precedes the smiley. What pathetic school playground occupants.”

    Fear not, Mary, I shall continue to invigilate you in the English language 🙂 in the hope that you will, in time, (1) learn to keep on-topic, (2) keep to substance and drop the sly little ad hominems, (3) cease attacking people through their relatives, (4) appreciate that contrary point of view are legitimate. This list is, of course, not exhaustive.

    Have a nice day.


    La vita è bella, life is good!

  • Jay

    Vince Cable.
    Radio 5

    “cutting taxes for people on low pay”

    Hello Vincent.

    If we need to get out of debt you need to raise taxes from the very top down, and you need to introduce food stamps, instead of spending welfare on shit in the shops,(excuse my French) raise the standards of your people.

    Thankyou Mary

    Anti_biotics should be used sparingly.

  • Mary - for Truth and Justice

    Liam ‘I want to be Prime Minister’ Fox advocates a five year spending freeze! and ‘to use the money saved on cutting taxes’. We know whose taxes he would like to see cut.

    Liam Fox to urge public spending freeze in speech
    Liam Fox calls for a radical change in the government’s economic policy

    CBI calls for Budget homebuilding
    Tory urges radical economic strategy
    Gay marriage plan wrong, says Fox

    Former cabinet minister Liam Fox is to use a speech to call on the government to freeze the level of public spending for five years and spend the money saved on cutting taxes and the deficit.


    Now Liam, what we really want to hear from you is the answer to the question – Where is Werritty? Tel Aviv, Washington, London even?

  • Yonatan

    Mr Murray, if you don’t get anywhere, try contacting the hospital patient advice and liaison service (PALS). They seem to have some pull. There should be details on the hospital website.

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