Patients reveal ‘shambles’ of Horton hospital outpatients appointment system

Banburyshire’s hospital outpatient appointment system and privatisation of some services are causing difficulty for patients, the Banbury Guardian has been told.

Following numerous complaints to this newspaper about difficulty getting appointments at the Horton General Hospital, we appealed for patients’ experiences on social media.

The Horton General Hospital

The Horton General Hospital

We received an avalanche of stories of expense, travel problems and inconvenience as patients are sent miles away.

Many were not given the option of the Horton, instead being offered Stratford, Warwick, Moreton in Marsh, Towcester, Daventry, Northampton, Bicester, Chipping Norton, Cowley, Oxford and even Henley.

Others said they had to choose a distant appointment because of long waits at the Horton.

“I was referred to the Horton ear nose and throat clinic (ENT) in December 2018 and my appointment is on November 5, 2019,” said one patient.

“They say if you choose the Horton you’ll wait longer. It then looks like we’re not choosing to use our local hospital.”

One said: “When I needed endoscopy I was offered Oxford yet they’d just opened a new one in Banbury and I live five miles from there.”

One mum reported spending £60 on taxis to Chipping Norton with her son. “They told me there it could have been done over the phone.”

One reader said: “You have to look online, see if the Horton has the clinic you need and request to go there even if there isn’t an option on the form.”

An eye patient said: “I keep being sent to a glaucoma clinic in Oxford when there is one at the Horton I used to attend. When I asked why, I was side tracked and got the impression they weren’t impressed with Banbury.”

Joanne Sammons said: “I was referred to the Churchill, Oxford for an ultrasound to investigate a lump in my breast. The consultant asked why I’d gone there as he’d had a clinic in Banbury the week before which had available appointments. I was shocked.

“My husband had to have a day off work to drive me and I had waited an extra week for my appointment. We were given no option. And I live three minutes from the Horton.”

Physiotherapy, recently privatised, has continued to cause major problems for many with patients being asked to go as far as Henley on Thames.

Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group and Oxford University Hospitals Trust said there are 375 Horton clinics from anticoagulation and audiology to urology and vascular.

They said ENT referrals had increased, causing longer waits. Extra clinics have been run and more are planned.

“We are keen to locate more outpatient clinics and day surgery to the Horton,” they said.

“Now the Judicial Review is complete, OUH can progress implementation of the business case for expansion of outpatient services at the Horton. Currently there is very little capacity in the facilities for further expansion of clinics.

“People are offered a choice of outpatient clinic. Not every location offers every service, so choices must be based on the patient’s clinical need, waiting times and nearest locations.

“Patients can be offered a choice of the Horton when it is clinically appropriate. Sometimes they may be advised that it would be better to travel a little further to be seen sooner.”

They said GPs select the locations for endoscopies.

Keith Strangwood, chairman of Keep the Horton General said: “There’s been so much talk about extra work at the Horton but they just seem to be taking it away.

“They’re either running it down or there’s a problem with the appointments system.It needs to be looked at as soon as possible. It is a shambles.”

Patients report many obstacles to being seen conveniently.

“My annual rheumatology appointment has been shifted from Banbury to Bicester, having been offered Chipping Norton and Witney also,” said one patient.

Jackie Healy from Helmdon said: “I have had a recent shoulder problem and my physio appintment was at Towcester. I was told I might have to go to outpatients in Daventry or Northampton but eventually an appointment came for Bicester.

“My shoulder was eventually operated on Banbury at the new Ramsey Health Centre. It was all confusing as although I live in Helmdon which is Northants the Horton is nearest to us by a long way.”

Another patient felt forced to go to Milton Keynes.

“I was given a choice for a pain clinic and physio and went to Milton Keynes which was the quickest although my experiences at the Horton have been pretty good apart from a couple of cancellations. The Horton waiting time was ridiculous.”

Another patient said: “I received two letters on the same day one giving my daughter an appointment on April 25 at Chipping Norton the other letter was cancelling it and rebooking one for September. She was referred in January,

“These letters were written on the same day, dated same day. Two days before the April 25 appointment I got a text message reminder of the appointment they said was cancelled.

“So I said to my daughter ‘we will go anyway just in case’, I’m glad we did as appointment wasn’t cancelled.”

Patients complain of confusion in the booking system.

“I had an endoscopy at the Horton but booking it was a nightmare. I went online all through the process only to be taken to a page that just gave me the phone contact details.

“I called the number and that took me two days to get through due to them not being there at the opening times stated.

“When I did get through the lady took all my details only to say they now send them to endoscopy and they will then send me an appointment in the post. How convoluted is that?

“Why didn’t they just send me a letter through the post from my doctor’s referral?”

Inconvenience is rife. One lady said: “I had to go to Witney for tests. I left home at 1pm for a 3pm appointment. I was seen at 4.15pm and had to wait until after 6pm before I could leave. I arrived home at 7.45pm. It was a nightmare.

“I was unable to drive myself so my daughter had to have time off work. It was terrible when treatment could have been done locally.”

Another patient said: “I was told I needed an emergency appointment to see a nerve surgeon. The Horton was on the list but I was offered Stratford.

“I don’t drive so had to go for the JR and wait over a month as there was nothing available for several months at the Horton.”

One physiotherapy patient said: “I was sent to Chipping Norton. When I arrived I was asked why I didn’t go to Banbury as it was just down the road, I explained that there were no appointments in Banbury, only for one to become available for my follow up.”

One mother told us: “My daughter has an ENT appointment at Banbury. Three times they’ve called trying to get us to go the JR, I had to go to Stratford to see a rheumatologist and I’ve been waiting since February for physio to contact me with an appointment.”

Another who responded said: “My husband was given an urgent referral last month for endoscopy and gastroscopy, but was only offered Bicester by InHealth. No choice.

“Having to travel to the Churchill by public transport with a child in a wheelchair is so difficult. You don’t know what bus to take or where to get off and walk. It sent my anxiety through the roof,” said one mum.

A Banbury patient said: “I’ve been waiting four months for a physio appointment. I was told Banbury wasn’t an option so had to choose from Bicester or Chipping Norton. I chose Chipping Norton and it was cancelled twice ‘for reasons out of their control’ and I had to rebook.

“I got one in Chippy for physio then one in Bicester women’s centre with the consultant two days after. It’s madness.”

Another woman said: “ I have been offered appointments at Banbury, JR and Milton Keynes. We’d have to wait until September to get seen at Banbury, July for the JR and next week for MK.”