Thursday 12 October 2006

NHS Rant

I did a very bad thing.

I forgot about a double nurse appointment at the local NHS clinic.

In my defence, I have just been told that I have a week to get prepared for a month in Seattle away from my family, and suddenly have to plan our four week holiday in South Africa this week. I'm very busy and am not very well organised. I admit I was wrong.


I received a phone call this afternoon by someone who seemed to think they were my mother. Now, I wouldn't presume to tell my mother how to talk to me, but anyone else in the world... Presidents, Prime ministers, Popes, Spiritual Gurus, Teachers, etc., do not have that luxury.

'Do you know that you had an appointment at eight forty this morning?'
'oh... um, oh s- f-, I'm really, really sorry. I completely forgot.', says I.

But that did not satisfy the almighty and clearly perfect entity at the clinic, my confession was not yet over. She explained to me how they were always over booked and my missing an appointment meant that other people may not be able to get one.

I felt suitably humbled and replied, 'I appreciate that and I am truly very sorry indeed.'

Still not enough. I was told that I would not be allowed another appointment for a new patient screening, although I could see a doctor.

Hang on...

Surely to waste a doctor's time is even worse that wasting a nurse's? Does this mean that I can never use the NHS again unless I have been hacked in half or run down? I shall put being-hacked-in-half on my To Do list immediately (which thankfully doesn't work very well as you will have already understood).

I felt that by paying approximately £300,000 over my planned lifespan toward the NHS, I really shouldn't be barred for life for missing one appointment. I've visited the doctor about four times in my adult life, each time with little pills to sort me out (often antihistamines), so I hardly think I've put an unnecessary strain on resources.

I tried to ask what I was supposed to do now, but the nurse curtly said "goodbye" and hung up on me (making Anne Robinson sound polite and friendly). I was stunned.

Now it strikes me that the person on the phone was venting her anger about the government's lack of NHS funding, at me. I don't mind being told that I've been inconsiderate, but I really can't take the entire blame for the NHS being overloaded. I will happily pay the 40 minutes of Nurses' salary that represents the time wasted by my inconsiderate forgetfulness.

The NHS is a business that happens to be paid by the government out of our taxes. That makes me a 'customer'. In any other business, a receptionist who spoke to a customer as I was spoken to would be fired.

The problem is not that the customers/patients are bad and need punishing, but that the company they work for is badly run and under funded. My previous screening was cancelled by the clinic. The only reason I asked for the appointment was because the doctor told me to - I think I have better things to do with my time.

If it wasn't a monopoly that got my £300,000 pounds , I would go to a competing business who did not treat me so horrendously. If you want an example of why public run monopolies are bad for the consumer, just look at BT or British Gas before privatisation.

If I did go to a private health care company in protest, I certainly wouldn't get a refund of monies paid.

1 comment:

  1. Penny said: Forgot to say that when I visited the docs a few days later there was a big notice by the desk about a metre and a half high. At the top was the day and date (the very same day you did the bad thing) and it said that on that day the missed appointments totalled 5 and a half hours! So I think that the poor receptionist was more than justified to rant at you - just bad luck you got the short straw. 5.5 hours though, bloody hell. Assuming that an appointment lasts 15 mins - that's 20 people not turning up....and that's not including you, with your double appointment!!!!