20,000 eye appointments cancelled at Shropshire hospitals

More than 20,000 outpatient eye appointments were missed or cancelled at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust last year.

Princess Royal Hospital, Telford, left, and Royal Shrewsbury Hospital
Princess Royal Hospital, Telford, left, and Royal Shrewsbury Hospital

Now chiefs have rolled out a plan to improve communication with patients with conditions such as cataracts and glaucoma and make £500,000 in savings.

The figures illustrate the pressure being placed on departments at the hospitals. Staffing pressures have currently led to a stop on new eye patients and the suspension of glaucoma surgery.

Just over half of 10,703 appointments were cancelled in 2016 by patients themselves while the opthalmology departments cancelled 9,992.

In 2015 a total of 24,113 eye clinic appointments for patients failed to go ahead and in January 2017 a total of 1,686 were cancelled.

Patients confused by appointment letters, consultants taking leave, patient sickness or being unavailable and slots being moved due to more urgent cases were among the reasons for cancellations. The data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act also show that on average the trust managed to reschedule appointments within 11 days.

And it has been taking 56 days for a patient referred by a GP to be contacted by the trust’s Clinic 10 eye unit.

To tackle the issues, which the trust said is unrelated to the closure of some of its eye clinics including adult squint surgery, staff took part in an intensive workshop aimed to resolve the problems. Moves include reducing the number of different letters used to inform patients of their appointment from 40 versions to one standard letter.

The effort to reduce problems is being assisted by the trust’s American improvement partner the Virginia Mason Institute.

SaTH’s learning and development trainer Ian Green said: “This is obviously not acceptable so what will happen going forward, as a result of the RPIW, is patients will receive an acknowledgement letter from the trust within seven days of being referred. We are not reinventing the wheel, but what we do hope to achieve is a greater reassurance, and therefore a better experience, for our patients.

“From speaking to patients and learning from letters of concern it became apparent that a large number of cancelled ophthalmology appointments were a result of patients not understanding the letter we sent them.

“The feedback was that the appointment letters were too wordy and didn’t focus clearly enough on the important facts. As a result appointments are being postponed because patients are attending the wrong hospital or not bringing required items with them.

“At one time we had 40 different appointment letter templates all saying the same thing, but differently. We now have just one letter, and furthermore it is clear and concise – much like you’d expect from a hotel or a business.”

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Comments for: "20,000 eye appointments cancelled at Shropshire hospitals"

silvercamper

Dear sirs I am one of the patients affected by these cancellations at the eye department I have just received my fourth cancellation.

Roger

Ten years ago I had cataracts removed from both my eyes in successive operations six months apart at the RSH. I was never in any doubt at all about appointments or actions to be carried out. No missed appointments and no cancelled appointments. My first operation was within three months over Christmas of my Optician spotting the condition which included a GP appointment, referral to and call up to the clinic for examination prior to the first operation. The six months between operations was a planned thing about recovery from the first before the second.

What went wrong? In my time it was straight forward from diagnosis to cure. Probably the most life changing operation the NHS can carry out so simply. It should be a winning situation for all concerned. From eyesight affected and impossible to drive at night and difficult to do day to days things to the best eyesight I have had for fifty years. I always say nobody should have any doubts or problems with it even if the operation sounds daunting it is in fact straightforward and painless.

Instead of a system of continuous improvement we have gone to a staggering 20,000 failures a year. For that to be caused by standard letters is putting failure into the system because ten years ago I did not experience any problem with understanding. I know that the eye clinics are particularly busy because almost everybody will at some time be in need of them so we can not judge what %age is failure, But every failure is time wasted that could have delivered service. Delay means more appointments and a system of prioritisation which is time wasted and delays incurred. But worse a longer period for the patient in which they are dysfunctional and some might not be able to work so economically devastating for all. Making a mess out of something that can deliver something so great is unforgivable. It is such an easy win to deliver.

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