More NHS Awfulness 81

It s rather humiliating to reveal so much of my personal medical history in order to expose the absolutely dreadful operation of the NHS in Thanet – and this blog is in danger of looking like a medical soap opera sometimes.  But as I continue to try to navigate myself through the system with utter disbelief at how awful it is. I thought I would keep you posted.

Like all the best soap operas, here is an update.  I am still in my 31 week wait to see a cardiologist.  In the meantime, and unrelated, I find I cannot walk for more than a hundred meters without agonising pain.  This turns out to be due to spur of bone growing out from the base of my heel.  On 6 June I went to see the GP to be told this, and also that it would take about 15 weeks to see a consultant.  When I pointed out I could not walk, the GP told me I could walk, it was merely a pain management issue (though I find it hard to believe this much pain can be caused if no damage is being done).

Anyway, I found I had a stark choice between being housebound for months, and opting for private treatment, and shamefacedly I opted for the latter, and asked the doctor for a private referral to the Chaucer Hospital, which he agreed to do.  Apparently in the UK you cannot see a specialist, even privately, without a referral from your General Practitioner.  I struggle to see the benefit in that peculiar restriction.

Having not heard anything for a week, I today contacted the Chaucer Hospital, who checked and said they had received no referral from my GP.  So I contacted my GP’s surgery, who said that the letter of referral had not been sent yet as it was “still working its way through the system” and it was “only a week” since I had seen the GP.  I pointed out that a week was a long time to someone who can hardly walk and is in great pain with a readily treatable condition.  I asked them if they might fax the letter of referral to a fax number the Chaucer Hospital had given me.

It was plain from the long silence that ensued that this was viewed as a grossly impertinent request.  They would have to consult the practice manager.  Finally came the answer – they would not fax the letter, but if I waited 24 hours they would print out a copy which I could collect and fax myself….

Which would be simple if a) I could walk and b) I possessed a fax machine.   On Sunday I have to go off to Africa which is not going to be easy.

81 thoughts on “More NHS Awfulness

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  • jjb

    I believe you are particularly unluky. My GP practice (somewhere in Hertfordshire) is good, the referrals (to near NHS hospitals) prompt, the treatment, so far, timely.

  • KingofWelshNoir

    That’s awful, I really sympathise. I don’t think you should say ‘shamefacedly’ – you were in agony and the NHS couldn’t sort it for 15 weeks. Anyone who could afford it would do the same, no matter what misgivings they felt. I would. And I would regard it as evidence that the system had failed, not that I had.

  • Laurent

    Craig, I believe any doctor can refer you, it needn’t be your GP. If you have any other doctor acquaintances perhaps they could help. Absent that if you call the appointments line of the specific GP at the hospital, they may be sympathetic and book your appointment on the understanding the referral is on its way.

  • Moniker

    I guess someone has to splurge their medical details all over the internet. The vast majority of the life-bending problems our health system is causing go unreported because people don’t like to “go public” with their details.

  • Passerby

    I am sorry to read about your painful affliction, and I hope you will somehow get well soon. However, the policies of successive neo-con/liberal/labour governments have been to liberate NHS from our ownership and hand it over to its rightful owners: the rich, and the filthy rich. It should come as no surprise that the GPs under the contracts awarded by the last lot of scoundrels have become accustomed to lots of paperwork, practice management, and less concerned with their primary duty: taking care of the sick, and infirm.

    Clearly, the paper work is so much that the retrieval, and annotation of a standard letter is far too onerous of a task to fulfil, that you as a patient have no idea about it. Also the additional cost of someone standing next to a fax machine and pushing a few buttons, to send the said letter, along with the cost of the call itself are far too much for the practice managers to consider entertaining your expensive request!

    You have not understood the concept of “pain management issue” at all. This means you suffer the pain, and your GP gets on with managing! The sad fact is with every scheme for improvement and efficiency somehow we the public get the shaft even more.

  • michael williams

    Hi Craig
    It would seem you have Plantar fasciitis. I have had this for a number of years although i have it under control

    I would imagine the GP has already prescribed NSAIDS (e.g. ibuprofen or dilofenac) to reduce pain and inflammation. The problem is however that this condition is mainly a mechanical problem with the foot not aligned correctly and you therefore put strain on the ligament joining the heel to the forefoot.

    Therefore to correct this you probably need an orthotic to align the foot. I spent £600 on a privately made orthotic however I found the orthotic from orthaheel was superior and it only cost £30 or so from Boots the chemist or online at

    This orthotic reduced the pain in days and took about 4 months for the pain to subside. I still wear orthaheel with Dr Martins shoes all the time now and have no problems.

    In addition to the orthotic you may need to do some special foot exercises, therefore before you see a private doctor you easily book into podiatrist who specializes in mechanical problems of the foot and he/she would advise you.

    If you do see a private doctor be careful as a common treatment for this condition is steroid injections or an operation. If the doctor proposes a steroid injection check the doctors past history and how many times he has done this as this injection must be done right and if he injects in the wrong space this can result in serious side effects.

    Finally I would try the orthotic first as you have nothing to lose and there are no side effects with this. Good luck.

  • Sal

    Much sympathy.

    Are you by any chance taking simvastatin, amlopidine, or both, or similar? I got crippling heel pain till I stopped. When it went away completely. Have a quick scan and google around any other medicines you are on and their possible side effects. Might even save you a visit to the specialist!

  • JimmyGiro

    Thanks to the existence of two systems, private and public, all referrals have to be ‘scrutinized’ and logged, in order to counter collusions between the two.

    For example, an NHS GP could make lots of lucrative referrals from his batch of welfare clients, to his golfing buddies in a private clinic, and the Doctors then share the loot from public funding and private pricing.

    Since private enterprise is part of a free society, the solution to the above type of problem would be to abolish the NHS, and make welfare medicine a means tested voucher system.

  • William Bowles

    Re going private: Worse still, like a friend of mine who decided to choose ‘free’ private treatment as an alternative for a pretty serious operation, after the op, she discovered that the vital post-op treatment at the private clinic was not free and because she’d ‘chosen’ private she couldn’t go back to the NHS!

    LIke you Craig, I’m also on statins and until I took charge of my own level of dosage (through trial and error) I had terrible muscle pains that came and went pretty much at random.

    I’m now on the smallest dose (short of chopping them in half), 10mg. I ascertained that the difference in the levels of cholesterol between 40, 20 and finally my 10mg was so tiny (i.e. from 3.9 to 4.1) that it taking a 40mg was pointless. Even my gp agreed (finally) but it was a struggle. Unless you’re an MD they think you’re an idiot!

  • Jives

    Im sorry for the pain youre suffering Craig,may it pass quickly.

    But i have to ask: as much as we all know youre a stoic and dogged old bugger why on earth are you going to Africa whilst in such pain?Even the walk from the check in to the plane sounds very painful never mind the fulk trip with luggage etc?

    Sounds like you need a proper rest for this to heal or you may end up seriously exacerbaring the problem and risking long term complicstions.

  • Tim

    Jimmy Giro is right – the money needs to come with the Patient, not get steered around by a central planning bureaucracy.

  • mike cobley

    sometimes I think that doctors and surgeons are paid way too much. This kind of offhand, disdainful treatment meted out to a patient who is in pain signifies that an elitist ethos is at work at that GP clinic. This may only get worse as GP units become further embedded in private sector market mechanisms.

  • lysias

    I cannot tolerate the side effects of most statins, but I am able to tolerate pravastatin (Pravachol). No muscle pains, no abdominal pains.

  • Roddy Macdonald

    Come back to Scotland, Craig. We still have an NHS and referrals from GPs to specialists (NHS or Private) are processed electronically, generally within a day. Waiting times are exponentially lower as well.

  • Dreoilin

    Sorry to hear this news, Craig. Their refusal to fax the referral letter is unbelievable.

    But as Jives said, it doesn’t seem like a very good idea to go to Africa right now. Can you not put that business off?

  • Fred

    “Come back to Scotland, Craig. We still have an NHS and referrals from GPs to specialists (NHS or Private) are processed electronically, generally within a day. Waiting times are exponentially lower as well.”

    When I had a paralysed finger it was around nine months before I got a phone call from Raigmore to tell me I had an appointment for tests. I explained it had got better on it’s own months before.

  • Ben Franklin -Machine Gun Preacher (unleaded version)

    What is the solution? Obama didn’t even want single-payer, or he didn’t want it enough to fight for it. Did he soften his negotiation position because he had a conversation?

    “Cameron; why are you pushing ‘private’ so much on NHS?

    Someone; Please explain why single-payer has denigrated? Siphoning funds? Poor infrastructure design? What?

  • craig Post author


    Thanks, but it turns out its not plantar thingy, its a calciferous spur (or something). Basically I’ve got in effect a nail sticking out of my heel into my flesh every time I stand on it.

  • Richard

    I doubt that Craig has plantar fasciitis. I had that and it involves an inflammation (or some disorder) of the lamina-like structures (hence fascia) along the length of part of the underside of the foot. It got better after a while. It was uncomfortable and I limped a bit especially when I first got up, but a spur of bone growing where it should not just where you want to put your weight on the heel is clearly different and sounds infinitely worse. Sympathies and best luck with it. Why they can’t get these simple things done and dusted in a week or ten days I just don’t know. I suspect that it is just plain bad management – massive over-management, probably. Too much dogma, too many chiefs, not enough Indians and a fair few jobs for the boys. I am sure that with good will and a sense of national service rather than careerist selfishness we could have a health service that works. Christian Socialism anyone?

  • guano

    The world tonight – Patrick Coburn – national borders change in Syria – long term neo-con agenda – made to sound – innocent and logical. Wonder who wants to change borders in the Middle East?

  • DomesticExtremist

    Well you can be comforted in the knowledge that Mr Lansley’s
    reforms, instead of fixing what is really broken will hand
    over the lions share of the NHS cash to GPs like yours and
    the rest to private health companies (e.g Virgin Health –
    Mr Branson will use it to buy more private Caribbean islands).

    The run up to 2015 is likely to be punctuated with the imminent
    bankruptcy of many NHS hospitals as the cash s drained away to
    the evil Tory project.

  • Ben Franklin -Machine Gun Preacher (unleaded version)

    Craig; How about some feedback? Have you tried reducing inflammation with the perfect natural anti-inlammatory, live garlic?

  • fedup

    When I had a paralysed finger it was around nine months before I got a phone call from Raigmore to tell me I had an appointment for tests. I explained it had got better on it’s own months before.

    Huh, think of it those Scots want independence, and miss all the miracles of self healing!

  • fedup

    a nail sticking out of my heel into my flesh every time I stand on it

    Holy shit, be careful it does not cause any inflammation and tissue break down, it sounds a nasty piece of work. Hope you get the treatment you need soon. what is the cause of this spur?

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