The ‘joy’ of being an NHS ‘ePatient’ – Susan Morrison

Dealing with Computer says No is an operation in itself, finds Susan Morrison

NHS Lothian is keeping Susan's postie busy even though she's an 'ePatient'. Picture: Getty
NHS Lothian is keeping Susan's postie busy even though she's an 'ePatient'. Picture: Getty

The NHS is devoted to The Leaflet. No consultation is complete until the patient has reeled away clutching page turners such as How to Manage YOUR Earwax, or Living with Black Death. Quite short, that one.

At my last meeting, the cheerful nurse concluded by handing me a goody bag full of such rip-snorting reads as Reducing Your Risk of Blood Clot, and my personal favourite, ­Discharge Lounge, the follow-up to that cracker of a read, Admission Day. Can’t wait for the film version. Bet ­Olivia Colman is in it. She’s in everything right now.

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My personal collection is good, but very specific. It’s a bit boobs and ­bottom, really, although I do have a nice sideline in Fasting Guidelines.

Olivia Coleman is in everything these days, so why not NHS leaflets? Picture: Getty

Perhaps I should set up a website, so devotees like myself can swap our duplicate leaflets, or hunt down those collector’s items, like Coping When a Politician on the Campaign Trail ­Appears Next To Your Bed With a Full TV Crew (and You’ve Forgotten to ­Insert Upper Dental Plate). Real rarity that one. It’s rumoured there’s a photo of Margaret Thatcher on the cover.

The paper trail follows you home. I’m getting more letters than a teen idol in the 70s.

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The paper is grimly recycled. There’s an air of rationing about it. This is good, but it’s being bought out of a stationery budget somewhere. So is the ink. Postage is still paid. This is all money mounting up that presumably could be put to better use, like designing better receptacles for pee collection.

NHS Lothian has hit the 21st ­century. It has launched the ePatient letter scheme. It’s a bit like online banking, where you log on, and boom! There’s your operation letter.

You get to opt in. This is a good idea. The NHS looks after a lot of people who ­perhaps aren’t ­comfortable with this computer ­malarkey. I opted in, because I literally couldn’t look my postman in the eye anymore. Near bent double, poor soul.

My first attempt at ePatienting worked. It was the date of my ­appointment with a surgeon in a week. Excellent.

The next day, a letter came through the door. It was the date of my ­appointment to see a surgeon in a week. I emailed Patient Experience to tell them that they were still ­sending letters.

Did I receive the map detailing which entrance I needed to go to at the hospital with the letter, came the ­reply? Yes, as a matter of fact I did, but believe me, I know the layout of the Western General better than I could ever have wished. And anyway, why not just put a link on to the email? Ah yes, good point, well made and thanks for the suggestion.

The password stopped working. They sent another one. It couldn’t be changed, because it broke the rules they have about creating passwords, and when I tried to change it the ­system basically looked at it and said, ‘You’re having a giraffe, mate. Who did this then?’

An email arrived. There was a letter on the system, which I knew would be the date for surgery and I knew I needed to know that date pronto because I’ve got stuff to reorganise, like work.

The temporary password failed. The system threw me out like a ­nightclub bouncer refusing entry to someone wearing trainers. Nothing was working.

In fact, it didn’t even recognise me. It told me so. After all we’ve been through. Hurtful. So, new password required. Ah, said system, it’ll take “some hours” to reset the password.

I waited “some hours”. I emailed Patient Experience after some more hours.

A message came back asking for the PIN number and they would sort it out. They didn’t. The next day, I emailed, pointing out that this was technically “some days”.

Patient Experience, a name that just sets itself up to be punched down, got back. They had fixed it.

They are still sending me letters.

At least you can count on banks

You need passwords and pin numbers for data protection. I know that. But some organisations seem to have cracked this security business a little more efficiently.

On Saturday, being a total berk, I left my purse in a taxi. There were only a few coins in it, but there was my bank card. Muttering and grumbling, I called the bank.

The lovely young woman who took my call told me she had terminated my card. To be fair that was way more brutal than I was expecting, like burning down the whole house because you’ve spotted a particularly large spider in the kitchen. No, hang on, I don’t see anything wrong with that.

The passwords and PIN were savagely culled and new ones issued with lightning speed.

On Tuesday, a brand-new bank card appeared, fully functioning and ready to go.

Customer experience one, patient experience nil.