I am passionate about the benefits of the NHS — the way it helps everyone in society, the way it keeps costs for patients from spiraling out of control. Just like in any large institution, it has dedicated people working hard and it has people who punch the clock or retreat into the bureaucracy. Perhaps the last category is not entirely their fault — the NHS is an organisation that runs on rules. Unfortunately those nonsensical rules make it less efficient and more costly.
This week I had a doctor’s appointment to talk over an issue I’ve been having for a while. It was a follow-up to my last appointment and I scheduled it weeks in advance so I’d get the same doctor that I spoke with before, one who seemed to understand the issue and was willing to help me get to the bottom of it.
On the day, work got crazy and there was just no way I could take time out to visit the surgery. But I had the appointment for which I waited weeks, the doctor knew me. Surely she could just call me instead?
You can guess what happened.
I called, I talked to someone on the front desk team. “You have an in-person appointment. All the phone appointments are taken.”
“Yes, but she’s due to see me in this time slot. Instead of my sitting in her office talking to her, why can’t she just call me at the same time?”
“I’m not authorised to change it from an office appointment to a phone appointment.”
I pressed. She put me on hold to talk to her supervisor. The answer came back: They did not have “authorisation” to “change the appointment”.
I have other examples and I don’t even have extensive medical needs, such as the time I needed a refill on a prescription at the weekend and was required to talk to a call centre administrator, a call centre doctor and go into the emergency clinic to see a doctor in person. He listened to my situation, picked up his pad and wrote the prescription. I left, walking past a roomful of other patients, some of whom probably really needed examining by a doctor.
Until the NHS starts operating in commonsense ways, with people acting like people and not bureaucrats, we’ll continue to have longer waiting times; escalating costs; patients, doctors and administrators all under pressure, stressed out, at the breaking point.
Until then, we’ll be spending money and energy going round the houses to achieve solutions we could have gotten to in a straight line.
Of course we should pressure the government to provide adequate funding and support for the NHS. Equally we should demand that the NHS work with people and for people instead of only thinking of targets, procedures, processes and authorisations.
Just imagine — you could contact your local surgery or go into an examination room and talk with a person not a mere employee!
Have you had a frustrating bureaucratic experience with your local surgery or NHS hospital?
I’d love to hear your story!