Columnist Dr Copperfield says the new initiative to allow hundreds of thousands of NHS patients to travel to a different hospital for treatment will inevitably increase GP workload
We GPs just love a Government health initiative. Especially when it comes with a shiny new acronym like ‘PIDMAS’. That’s ‘Patient Initiated Digital Mutual Aid System’, and it’s the latest Bright Idea to help clear the waiting-list backlog.
It’s confusing, though, because a Digital Mutual Aid System does sound a lot like a sex toy. But no, sending these out to patients as a way of distracting them from the miseries of a buckling NHS isn’t the plan (not yet). The pleasure is actually to be had by giving patients who’ve waited more than 40 weeks for treatment the opportunity to travel up to ’50 miles, 100 miles or nationally’ to access care via a shorter waiting list.
Don’t panic. Yes, the NHS is going to make this offer proactively. But it only involves, uh, nearly half a million people. And, double uh, they’re all told, ‘Don’t call your GP about this.’ Which, as we all know, they interpret as, ‘Good idea, I’ll call my GP about this.’
Which is why a significant proportion of our consultations will soon become: ‘So what’s this all about? Should I do it? How does it work? Why haven’t I been contacted? I’ve been contacted but I’ve not heard back so can you chase it up? Do I need a new letter? I can’t get on to the system. I’ve got on to the system, but I can’t make it work. The phone number they gave doesn’t get answered so will you contact them? Is there transport? Are accommodation costs covered? Do they have surgeons up North? Is Darlington in England?’ etc etc etc.
And if by some freak of circumstances they do get an appointment/procedure date at their chosen location ’50 miles/100 miles/nationally’, we will then get: ‘They said it was too complex so I have to be referred locally again. I need physio now and you have to arrange that. My relatives got fed up with me/the hotel was too expensive so I need my follow up here. I need the community nurses to visit and you have to sort that out. The surgeon said there was no need for me to travel all the way there for my post-op check because you could do it. I’m not going up the M6 again,’ etc etc etc.
Times half a million.
Happy PIDMAS? Or taking the PIDMAS? We’ll soon find out. In the meantime, can I suggest a scheme proactively sending NHS strategists to Darlington? In Australia.
Dr Copperfield is a GP in Essex. Read more of his blogs here