Wednesday, December 14, 2016

How the NHS lost my man ...

Here's a wee NHS story with a personal twist. I've been married to a non-person for the past 12 years - or is it 11? We did wonder, a month or so ago, when the man on the other end of the NHS24 line turned savage (or at least peremptory) and refused, "in the interests of security", to speak further with Mr B because, according to Mr NHS24, there was no-one with his details registered at our address. A tad Orwellian, huh? And strange, as we've lived here for over 40 years and Mr B has seen quite a few decades under the NHS. But we had other things on our mind, no-one was dying - he was only trying to make a physiotherapy appointment - and we let it go.

Until yesterday. Yesterday, in the hospital On The Other Side - in Gourock, not in Heaven - the discovery was made that Mr B had the Wrong Number. This is the CHI Number, defined thus:

The Community Health Index (CHI) is a population register, which is used in Scotland for health care purposes. The CHI number uniquely identifies a person on the index.

CHI is mandatory on all clinical communications.

- according to the NHS site. It is a 10 digit number, the first part of which is one's date of birth. And some sharp-eyed person in Inverclyde noticed that Mr B's number didn't tally with the DoB he'd just given. There was, apparently, a great flurry of concern. And this is why ...

Had Mr B been wheeled into A&E on a trolley after something horrid like a car crash, someone would presumably have retrieved his driving licence, found his name and DoB, and called up his medical records electronically. Only they might well not have been his records - or they would perhaps be unable to find them, because they'd be under another birth date. Luckily, he's not been in such a trauma, so the problem hasn't arisen, and yesterday he was perfectly compos mentis and able to speak up for himself. But don't forget the NHS24 man - he refused to speak to someone whose records didn't match what the person on the phone was telling him.

A bit of digging at the local GP surgery - where he's been a patient since the 70s - revealed that the error happened some 11 years ago, when handwritten records were digitised. Someone changed a 0 to a 1, and the real Mr B disappeared, replaced by an imposter 10 days younger. And we've only just found out.

I don't know what would have been the final outcome had this not been discovered. I hate to think. As it is, it's almost amusing - sufficiently so for me to blog with a relatively light heart. It might have been very different.  I've just checked my CHI number, and it seems to be correct.

Is yours?

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