Waiting times in an ophthalmic outpatient clinic

BMJ 1994; 309 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.309.6963.1231a (Published 05 November 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;309:1231
  1. P I Murray
  1. Academic Unit of Ophthalmology, Birmingham and Midland Eye Hospital, Birmingham B3 2NS

    EDITOR, - The problems facing ophthalmologists in busy units trying to meet the patient's charter have recently been highlighted.12 It seems that the blame must lie with the hospital if the conditions of the charter cannot be met, but this may not always be justified.

    Around the time that the charter was introduced I conducted a survey of three general ophthalmological outpatient clinics over three weeks. These were representative morning clinics for a busy, specialised teaching hospital. Overall, 216 elderly patients attended; the most notable finding was that 84 arrived an average of 46 minutes late for their booked appointment time. Trying to fit these patients into the clinics resulted in long delays, with the allotted schedule being overrun. Although a small proportion of the patients were late as a result of ambulance delays, many were late because they were unable to use their reduced fare passes on public transport in the early morning. Because the eye hospital is in a busy city centre, parking problems were also partially responsible. Patients may also be late if they have had to wait many hours to be seen at previous appointments.

    The standards in the patient's charter do not take into account factors that may be outside a hospital's control, yet it is the hospital that will be penalised. Perhaps we should impose stricter regulations by informing patients that they will not be seen if they turn up late. This may allow us to meet the standards of the charter but could also result in a number of patients becoming blind unnecessarily.


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