I’m waiting in an NHS hospital, while Mrs. Wh00ps has an outpatients appointment, followed by a blood test.
After arriving with 10 minutes to spare we had to wait another hour, as NHS appointments obviously don’t tally with any sense of good business practice or even reality, like the bistromathics described by Douglas Adams.
Once we’d eventually seen the unusually english and helpful consultant, he suggested we might like to have a blood test, just in case. Our local hospital (Medway Maritime) has recently spent plenty of (our) money extensively re-building the front of the buildings including the blood testing area. Gone is the huge waiting room and four or five cubicles, replaced with an extensive network of waiting rooms and testing rooms and an army of receptionists and tour-guide like people to show you which waiting room to wait in, where expensive-looking flatscreen monitors inform you of how long you will have to wait, and call out your number. Oh yes, I forgot. Despite all this new and expensive technology the basic system is still take-a-ticket-and-wait, the same system as the Tesco delicatessen 25 years ago.
This is still not the best bit though! Even with all these expensive waiting rooms, expensive computer screens and expensive auxiliary staff… THEY ONLY HAVE TWO TESTING ROOMS OPERATING!
Mrs. Wh00ps worked two hours in lieu last week so she could take her appointment off. The appointment was at 09:30 so she thought she could be in for 11. It’s now 11:15 and we’re still waiting, and we’ll get charged a fortune at the car park for the privilege plus she’ll now have to work hours to make it up, despite doing the right thing and going in to work on her day off to do it in advance.
Why do we accept this sort of service from the NHS? If we arrived at a hairdresser 10 minutes before our appointment and were still waiting an hour later, we’d walk out and never use them again. We don’t have a choice with hospitals though. You can’t give up an arrange an appointment at the next hospital down the road. You can’t exercise your most fundamental right to take your business elsewhere.
Well, we personally can’t. We can’t afford to go private (we’re “working poor” ie we earn enough but the government takes a huge slice and we don’t earn little enough to qualify for any of it back, as if that would make it ok even if we did!) and “choice” between NHS hospitals is another of the pseudo-choices of Coke vs Pepsi so beloved of the establishment. Even if we could we’d still be forced to pay for this ridiculousness.
Dare mention any of this in public though, and you might as well have suggested buggering Nelson Mandela with Mother Theresa’s shrunken head. The cognitive dissonance is simply astounding. Everyone complains about the state of the NHS, but any alternative is simply unthinkable! Not enough money they say, but they don’t see the millions wasted on staff who show you which waiting room to wait in and huge new wings to keep them all waiting in, instead of on nurses to do the testing so not so many people have to wait at once.
We have the health service the lowest common denominator deserve, and the rest of us can’t do a damn thing about it.