Playing Tennis with NHS Commissioning

You cannot be serious


 I stared open-mouthed across the Reception Desk in our local hospital’s MRI department.

 John McEnroe’s  words came to mind.  I had turned up at Imaging Dept. of local hospital;  had phoned directly to try and get an appointment (been told they couldn’t make a booking over the phone, so believed them) and  turned up at their desk to get an appointment for a Scan for a painful spine.  Then they told me the latest ‘lie’ in a sorry tale of ‘pass the patient’.  

It all started when I  went to see GP, bent double with spinal pain.  

He dubiously asked if I wanted to use ‘Choose and Book  to make an appointment for a Scan?   Try anything once, is my motto, so said Yes.  

When the hand-over from LaLa Lansley to LaLaLite (Jeremy Hunt) took place, it was obvious no-one had explained to the new boy that he should see the NHS books were balanced – it was NOT to ensure the NHS makes a profit from treating patients. 

Recently our local hospital has commissioned a Northumbrian company, Connect Physical Health (CPH) to offer scans – and they commissioned another private company to write up all their doctors’ notes.    So we seem to have ended up with a company at loggerheads with the GPs who commission the procedures, and anxious patients unable to take up appointments with Consultants, as the outsourced transcribing company hasn’t written up the notes.

This is providing endless possibilities for mix-ups, delays etc., a lot of money is being shunted around but the end result is the patient gets a fragmented and inefficient diagnostic service.

Start the Match

After three weeks went by with no appointment for a scan,  my Match with CPH was on, as I desperately tried to get a date :


CPH are past masters at this game.  Within the first few minutes they knock up points in quick succession, telling me :

  • You don’t have right form                                                                                                       LOVE –  15
  • Your GP can’t refer for an MRI                                                                                                        LOVE –  30
  • Your Letter not received (this is an ACE, as I can’t challenge)                                          LOVE –  40 
  • Finally, “we have received letter, but are too busy to do anything”                                      O  – 1



Next game

  • by this time I am working out how much it is going to cost to go over to France.   First call was to highly popular University Hospital of Lille, who offer me an appointment for Christmas Eve – at least the French work then.                                                                                                                                                                                   15 – LOVE
  •  CPH then say my letter is not right letter for MRI Scan                                                           15 ALL
  • CPH back again “We have received letter, and it IS right one ,                                                                                                              but there is no appointment we can give you for six months                                                 15 – 30
  • I get angry, and tell CPH that I am going to France                                                                    30 ALL
  •  CPH gasp:  “Er, we can offer you an appointment at 3 pm THIS AFTERNOON”     


 End of Match analysis

  • Be patient – the ‘Provider’ may come up with umpteen excuses.
  • Write these down – at least as proof you are NOT going mad
  • But in the end, Providers are there to make money (unlike NHS in-hospital services). 
  • If you don’t come for your scan via the NHS, Providers won’t get paid by the NHS. So this is when YOU say you are going to France/Germany/Italy etc. and they panic – seeing their payment slipping away.



If you want to go to France

  1.  The French aren’t as stupid as us, and frown on ‘Medical Tourists’.  So when you book, make sure you let them know you are going to pay.
  2. The EHIC card does NOT cover this type of medical treatment.
  3. Many staff speak English, and websites usually have a Union Flag you can click on.
  4. You are given adequate time – no rushed 10 minute appointmtents
  5. Friends who go there say cost of Scans is far below what we pay in UK (I do know local hospital charges £120 for DEXA Scan – in Italy I was quoted £40)

The very-efficient Lille Tourist Office says it might be easier to get an apointment in a Centre d’Imagerie Médicale rather than in a hospital, where they have to deal with emergencies and put their own patients on top of the list as well as patients refered to them by doctors who are part of the Sécurité Sociale scheme.

Here are a few in Lille, starting with the most central Centre and going on to furthest away from the city centre (but easy to get there on the underground).  Put 00 at beginning of number if phoning from UK, and ask to speak to an English speaker.  With some telephone tariffs, it costs between 1p. and 4p per minute, cheaper than the NHS’s 0845.

Radiologie et Imagerie Médicale Lille Centre
101 rue du Molinel
+33 3 20 52 52 53

Centre d’Imagerie Médicale
73 rue Jacquemars Giélée
+33 3 20 57 07 19

Centre d’Imagerie Médicale des Bois Blancs
144 avenue de Dunkerque
+33 3 20 09 92 92

Centre d’Imagerie Médicale de Lomme
712 avenue de Dunkerque
+33 3 20 93 42 09

 Lille Tourism & Convention Bureau (non-profit association with English-sepaking staff)
Palais Rihour | Place Rihour | BP 205
59002 Lille Cedex (France)

Tel. from abroad: +33 (0)359 579 400

Getting there

 Eurostar operates up to 9 daily services from London St Pancras International to Lille with return fares from £69. Eurostar also offers connecting fares from more than 300 stations in the UK.                                                  

Fastest London-Lille journey time is 1hr 20 minutes.

Tickets are available from or call 08432 186 186

Standard Premier

With the option of flexible fares, Standard Premier offers more leg-room with on-board staff offering a light meal and a selection of magazines.

 Standard Premier fares start from £189 return

Lille Europe station (where you arrive) has plenty of taxis, and as medical centres are mostly on outskirts you will need one (not too expensive).  Once you have finished, the station is a ten minute walk from the shopping area.

Having Fun after

I love to eat in L’Ecume des Mers – but the tourist board can give you details of lots of other good restaurants.

And the centre of Lille is a wonderful traffic-free shopping zone  – a 10 minute walk from Eurostar station (don’t forget there are two stations in Lille).

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