Patients at the Royal Free and UCLH ‘often confused’ by follow-up to hospital appointments – report

Healthwatch director Matthew Parris presented a report about the Royal Free and UCLH. Picture: Healt

Healthwatch director Matthew Parris presented a report about the Royal Free and UCLH. Picture: Healthwatch Camden/Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

Outpatients at both the Royal Free Hospital and University College Hospital (UCH) are “often confused” upon leaving routine outpatient appointments – as they don’t know what they’re do next.

That's according to a report from Healthwatch Camden drawing attention to shortcomings in communication and the administration of appointments at both hospitals.

The report, presented to Camden Council's health and adult social care scrutiny committee on February 11, is based on interviews with 153 patients across the rheumatology, dermatology and orthopaedic departments at the two hospitals.

According to the report, these interviews "exposed a striking gap between what patients had been told during

their appointment and their ability to recall, understand and act on that information immediately afterwards".

Healthwatch Camden's director Matthew Parris, said: "As patients came out of their appointment, almost all told us that they understood the next steps. Within moments, however, we saw this certainty change to confusion — where do I go with this piece of paper, how will I hear about the next appointment, is my blood test here or somewhere else?

"That's why Healthwatch Camden is recommending that both hospitals introduce a formal check-out desk in outpatient clinics to which patients report before leaving."

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Responding to the report, Royal Free Hospital chief exec Kate Slemeck told the committee: "We can see that the care is good but we don't always administrate these things as well as we could do.

"I am sure I speak for all my colleagues today: When we read this report, our heart sinks as well. This is one of the trickiest areas of our business - running outpatient appointments - and our systems aren't always fit for purpose.

"We are very committed to improving the communication and the administration."

Officials from UCH were similarly keen to make improvements. Dr Gill Gaskin said: "We knew that our administration and booking processes were not as good as our clinical care, but this has helped us narrow down our areas of focus."

Cllr Kelly's committee made two recommendations "that the Royal Free and UCLH continue to work together" and that they "work directly with Healthwatch Camden" to improve patient communications before reporting back.

Have you had positive or negative experiences of outpatient appointments at the Royal Free or UCH? Contact Sam at the news desk on or write a letter to the editor to