Quote: "Choose and Book is a service that lets you choose your hospital or clinic and book your first appointment. When you and your GP agree that you need an appointment, you can choose which hospital or clinic you go to. You will also be able to choose the date and time of your appointment.
What does Choose and Book mean for me?
As well as giving you a choice of hospital, date and time for your appointment, Choose and Book will also give you the ability to:
• plan and manage around your existing appointments, if you are currently undergoing treatment
• fit your treatment in with your other commitments, at home and at work
• choose appointments that fit with your carer's schedule
• check the status of your referral and to change or cancel your appointments easily over the phone or on the internet.
How does Choose and Book work?
When you and your GP agree that you need an appointment with a specialist, Choose and Book shows your GP which hospitals or clinics are available for your treatment. Your GP discusses with you the clinically appropriate options that are available for treating your medical condition.
If you know where and when you would like to be seen, you may be able to book your appointment before you leave the surgery. You will be given confirmation of the place, date and time of your appointment.
You may want more time to consider your choices. If so, you can take the Appointment Request letter away with you and book your appointment later. Your Appointment Request letter lists your unique booking reference number, your NHS number and a list of hospital or clinic options for you to choose from. Your GP practice will also give you a password with your Appointment Request letter.
You can then decide how you wish to book your appointment; via the telephone, using the national number on the letter or via the internet. Please note that whilst the vast majority of appointments can be booked this way, in some cases you will need to telephone your chosen hospital directly to make your appointment. This is because the hospital computer does not link to Choose and Book. This will change over time as the old hospital computers are replaced with new ones.
Can I book all my appointments through Choose and Book?
When you and your GP agree that you need an appointment with a specialist, you can book your first hospital or clinic appointment using Choose and Book.
The benefits of Choose and Book:
• You can choose any hospital in England funded by the NHS (this includes NHS hospitals and some independent hospitals). More information about hospitals is available on the NHS Choices website.
• You can choose the date and time of your appointment.
• You experience greater convenience and certainty. With Choose and Book, the choice is yours.
• There is less chance that information will get lost in the post because more correspondence takes place through computers."
-If your GP is a non-starter on eye conditions, or who does what where (and whose isn't? if they ever invest in ophthalmoscopes we're all doomed, although they'd be crazy to attempt diagnosis on persistent eye disorders), the GP can be reassured and guided by a letter from a clued-up high street optometrist/optician, or a private ophthalmologist diagnosing the condition and explaining your needs. GP no good, see another one. There are even walk-in GP services now eg in hospitals 'my GP has been very good about my hip but doesn't seem to know what to do about my eyes and it's been x years now... I suppose it's very difficult for them to assess eyes'
-There is also a (better) referral pathway through high street optometrists/opticians. They are also more likely to know who does what where.
-Some regions have ophthalmology triage services servicing the NHS because GPs are non-starters on eyes.
-Failing that, turn up at a regional Eye Clinic A&E looking awful, asking for referral to the cornea service.
If you can find your way through this, it will be liberating, but I wouldn't be relying on anybody in the system to know what they're doing... IME, avoid out of hours 'services' unless you know the person who's on. Don't hesitate to ask advice from everybody and look out for the subtle hints as well as the direct guidance (which is often wrong or just half the story).
You would also be asking the Appointments Staff what the waiting lists are like, how often the consultant is actually in the clinic, who covers the patient list when they're not there, and where else they work (eg there may be a huge difference in waiting time in a quieter clinic elsewhere, same consultant, same team even). The consultant's secretary is your best friend. So are the appointments staff (you can get a real vibe on working practices).
Shop around online. Get copies of your medical records if possible because they are not electronic yet and they will hide stuff and not share, partly to cover up between the joyous assortment of care 'providers'. Also, the GP will have diagnosis letters you have not seen so it's worth making a GP appointment 'to review my case/medication' 'no decisions about me without me' and asking for your copies 'they never seem to be able to find my notes, and I don't think they must go to my other consultant who I see about my thyroid so it gets very difficult because I don't always know what the eye consultant's said etc'. NB, 'diagnosis' letters will be very illuminating as you learn more about eye conditions here and from the internet.
Also, like Chattabob and Poppy's idea of turning up fresh in a hospital eye clinic, completely without notes or diagnosis 'I've had this 4y and nobody seems to know what it is or how to help'. Also illuminating.