It’s not even 10am and I’ve already made five phone calls to five different medical departments.
The first was to chase up Little Bear’s speech and language report following a routine assessment at the end of May. Nobody answered so I’ve left a message and put a note in my diary to ring again in a couple of days if I’ve not heard anything.
The report will be out of date by the time we receive it but that’s not the point. Having evidence like this is vital when filling out forms for things like Disability Living Allowance and an Education, Health and Care Plan.
The second phone call was to the pharmacy to check on three orders for medicine. I ordered them two days ago and one of them still hasn’t arrived. They promised to reorder it for me but it now means two trips to the pharmacy instead of one.
The third was to Big Bear’s continence worker to check an inconsistency with the appointment letter I’ve received.
The fourth call was to Little Bear’s paediatrician about a recent review he had with another member of the child development team, which we weren’t happy with. Again, another message left.
Finally, I rang Little Bear’s physio to chase a letter she promised to write so that he can continue to access his riding therapy.
These are the phone calls I hate. It’s always chase chase chase for everything and we have double the chase with The Bears.
I get that the NHS is stretched beyond belief. I can see that in the way the system has changed since we first entered it with Big Bear four and a half years ago. However, all these phone calls were avoidable if the people concerned had simply done their jobs properly.
Nevertheless, we are where we are and to get the most out of the system you have to be tenacious.
Here’s my 8-step guide to making the most of hospital appointments:
1. Prepare questions
Due to cost cutting in the NHS, the gaps between appointments are getting longer. While you’ve got a professional in the room you want to ask them everything you can think of. Prepare the questions in advance so you don’t forget to ask anything in the meeting. Keep a track of questions in the notes section of your phone or keep a notepad in the kitchen/your bag so that you can write them down as and when they pop into your head.
2. Dress smartly
You don’t have to go OTT but being presentable will send a message to whoever you’re meeting that you’re serious about representing your child’s best interests.
3. Take notes
Always take notes at every appointment, right from the very beginning of your journey. I didn’t at first and I regret it. Now I have a notebook. The front is for Big Bear, the back is for Little Bear. I make a note of any questions I have and then jot down the answers in the meeting. I also write down everything they say they will do and the timeframe in which they intend to do it. Even if they are intending to send a report with the information on, getting reports can be a lengthy process as demonstrated above. Likewise, make a note of their suggestions of activities etc for you to do at home so you don’t forget later on and can crack on with the therapies while you wait for any further information.
4. Keep an eye on timescales
Keep an eye on the timescales you wrote down at the appointment by popping reminders in your phone or on the calendar. If a professional hasn’t done what they say they will in the time they said, follow it up with phone calls. Timings can easily lapse in the NHS so you need to be on it. Sadly, it’s the parents who shout the loudest who get noticed so you need to train your big voice.
5. Lists lists lists
I have a list of people I need to ring and if I’ve had to leave a message, I write down the date and time the message was left. I then put a note in my diary to follow it up if I’ve not heard anything. It can sometimes take weeks for people to return calls so don’t just rely on them ringing you.
6. Find their email address
Got a question for a professional who NEVER answers the phone? Find their email address. You can usually find email addresses pretty easily through a google search. If the person you want isn’t there, find someone else at the hospital and copy the format for their email address. Keep emails to the point and make them easy to read. NHS professionals are time-starved (like the rest of us).
7. Escalate the issue
Not getting the answers or support you need? Escalate a phone call or email to the person above who you’re dealing with. Keep escalating if needed until you get what you’re after.
8. Ask what they would do in your shoes
This is a really helpful tip and one that can uncover loopholes you were previously unaware of. I used the tip recently when speaking to a speech and language therapist. It was enlightening as I didn’t realise there was a grading system and she told me to ask for at least a grade 4 therapist to get a specialist with years of experience. I would never have known to specify a grade had I not asked the question.
Have I missed anything? What’s your top tip for dealing with the professionals?
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