Long waits for appointments for community health services can affect health, say local residents
Healthwatch asked Islington residents using services like podiatry, physiotherapy, and district nursing to share their views about waiting times. Did they think they were waiting a long time between appointments, or to access a service after being referred? If so, did that have any impact on their health?
More than one third of the 70 responses we received described short waits or no wait at all to access community health services. Slightly under a third described medium length waits. Slightly under a third described their waits as long or very long.
- 30 of the 70 responses we received reported negative health impacts, reduced quality of life, or having to access other services as a consequence of waiting times.
- In general, respondents felt that the care they received when their appointment took place was good.
'I was advised by my GP that the wait was so long for physiotherapy if I could afford it I would be better off going private. I had previously had physio at the Whittington and found it very helpful. This time I have carried on without physio but it’s meant lots more disrupted sleep with nerve pain, and taken ages to recover.'
- Some respondents reported dissatisfaction with appointment booking systems for community health services, which sometimes made waits longer than they needed to be.
- Where respondents were told how long they would have to wait to access the service, three times out of four they did not have to wait any longer than that. However, some respondents said they were not told how long they would have to wait.
Emma Whitby, Chief Executive of Healthwatch Islington said,
'It's encouraging that most people who took part in the survey felt good about the quality of care available from these services. However, providers do need to make sure that they communicate effectively with people waiting to access them. This is particularly important if waiting times are likely to be long. Uncertainty can lead to emotional distress, particularly if it makes service users feel that they have been forgotten.'