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My father Suffers A Day of NHS Incompetence, at least Dr Harold Shipman was efficient

Tom Winnifrith
Friday 11 March 2016

My father and step mother spent most of yesterday afternoon at a Midlands Hospital for a routine chat with a consultant and pick up of medication. Late in the day he and my step mother retrned home, drained after a session with the world's third largest employer which left both fuming. I had a similar experience the other week here in Bristol. Say what you like about Harold Shipman but he does appear to have been ruthlessly efficient...he clearly did not fit in well in today's NHS.

My father and step mother who are both seriously ill arrived on time for a noon appointment. The consultant granted them an audience at 12.45. The consultant who was meant to be there was not and the stand in did not have any notes relating to the previous consultation so it was impossible to guage how things are trending. Dad and step mum tried to help him with notes they had made in their diary about doses etc and prompted the consultant ( on £130,000 ayear + private work?) about a new scan and he accepted that was a good idea.

Then it was off to the pharmacy to collect pills which they were assured were there. Mobility is an issue but the old folks struggled along and the folks at the pharamcy knew nothing. My step mother consulted her diary to brief the NHS clowns and was then told there were two lots of pills, those prescribed this week and those prescribed last month which had not actually been there when someone went in to collect them. At this point I would have been making Harold Shipman jokes again but the old folks are made of sterner stuff.

My father says that with heroic restraint (his words) he did not say "I must have words with the station master at Belgrade because I told him if I ever met a more incompetent organisation I would let him know."

That is a good line. 

My own experience was with the Mrs in Bristol. There are two related departments with a common waiting room. Lets call them left twix and right twix. I arrived late and since the Mrs was not in the waiting room went to Right twix where there are two reception desks but was told she was not there. I passed a third communal reception desk and headed to left twix where I was assured at one of the two reception desks that she was not there either. I insisted she was there somewhere because I had a text to that effect from the Mrs.

At that point, as the women at reception desk two in Left Twix started to give me filthy looks, a nurse approached from Right twix. The Mrs had been found. After one procedure we were sent to a small waiting room where we chatted for fifteen minutes before a nurse came and moved us to the communal waiting room (what a good use of her time that was). There we waited before being summoned to Left twix for another procedure after which we were told to book another appointment at one of the two receoption desks in Left twix.

A fat woman wasted a few minutes clicking her computer before saying we could not have an appointment as no form had arrived from Right twix. She knew when to book and that we should book but she needed that form. She was only following rules and obeying orders. Yes I understood and bit my lip.

Instead I headed back to one of the two reception desks in Right twix where I kicked up a fuss. A few minutes later back in left twix a nurse (good use of her time?) arrived with the form.

Between the five reception desks the NHS is employing at least ten receptionist gauleiters per shift. There were perhaps ten nurses and four doctors on duty at the same time with no more than 15 patients in the communal waiting room at any one time and often far less. Overmanned, incompetent and not always terribly friendly, that is my experience of the NHS as a customer ere in Bristol.

But am I allowed to say that? Should I not be saying "under-resourced by the wicked Tories and staffed by saints who never put a foot wrong?" The reality is that spending on the NHS has never been higher. Doctors are paid obscene wages. And the level of waste and inefficiency is there for all to see. Apart from Doctor Shipman who was, as we now know, the one NHS doctor who was ruthlessly efficient at all times.

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About Tom Winnifrith
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Tom Winnifrith is the editor of TomWinnifrith.com. When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
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