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‘Thankyou for calling the new national appointments line’



A woman trying to reach her GP surgery is trapped in recorded telephone appointment hell, in the latest ‘Through the K hole’


She was woken up by a soft dull thud. With her eyes half open and lying with a blanket loosely draped over her, she recognised the sound. Her husband’s smouldering dementia meant that he got out of bed in the early hours of the morning and wandered about the house, and of late his wandering would often led to a fall.

She phoned to book an appointment.

‘Thank you for calling the new national appointments line,’ came a voice with all the gleeful efficiency of a cash register.

‘In order that we can more quickly process your call please tell us your unique NHS identity number. You can just tell us over the phone or if you have a touch phone you can dial it on your keypad if you prefer.’

‘I’m sorry, that was an invalid entry. Please say your unique NHS identity number after the tone or if you have a touch phone you can dial it on your keypad…..beep.’

‘I’m sorry that was an invalid entry…you will now be transferred to the main menu.’

‘Main menu. Remember that you can press your star key to skip at any time. If you have arranged an appointment with us previously, please press one. If you would like to book an appointment through the national appointments line, please press two. If you would like to speak to an advisor, please press three. For any other queries please press four and for a description of how this service works please press five.’

‘I’m sorry, that was an invalid entry… Main menu. If you have arranged an appointment with us previously please press one. If you would like to book an app… thank you… please continue to hold.’

Soothing music filtered over the line.

‘Due to the large volume of calls, the queries line is now closed. Many of your queries can now be answered online. Please visit us at www.nationalappointments.com…’

‘Thankyou. Main menu. Remember that you can press your star key to skip at any time. If you have arra… thank you…’

The music looped round, cloaked with static.

‘I’m sorry all of our advisors are busy at the moment. Your call is very important to us and shall be answered as soon as we can. Please continue to hold.’

‘Many of your queries can now be answered by visiting us online on our website at www.nationalappointments.com.’

‘Thank you for your patience, please continue to hold.’

‘Due to the current high volume of calls we recommend that you call your surgery directly or call back later… thankyou.’

And she was disconnected. There was silence, hanging by its neck, garotted by the twisting helix of the telephone cord.

Another soft thud came from upstairs.

Written in response to: Government drops appointment call centre plans after GP outrage. Dr Kevin Hinkley is a GP in Aberdeen.

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