This letter is not a criticism of the wait time for specialist appointments; rather, it is a criticism of specialist booking protocol. I believe that the routine used by (I am told) an increasing number of specialists antagonizes patients unnecessarily.
On 27 February, my GP referred me to a specialist. When I had not heard from his office after 3 weeks, I phoned to make sure that the referral had reached his office. I was told that they had my referral, and that they would not be contacting me until nearer the appointment time, which, since it was not urgent, would be in about 4 to 6 months. As it is a chronic problem, I decided against playing the “doctor card.” It is now almost 7 months, and I have had no contact initiated by his office at all.
As a patient, I am appalled by this complete lack of contact from the specialist office. It has made me angry enough to write this letter, and I will not be in a particularly respectful or cooperative mood when I eventually do meet him.
Since I believe that the relationship between physician and patient is an important part of the therapeutic process, I am sad about this. The intention of this letter is to try to persuade specialists to review their approach to their patients, to optimize the relationship. I would suggest an initial contact as soon as the referral is received, with an indication of when to expect the next contact and the length of the waiting list. If for some reason the wait is going to be appreciably extended, the patient should be contacted again.
Too much contact between the office and the patient is unlikely.
—Ben R. Wilkinson, MD
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