Wednesday Words – The NHS

Welcome to my new (and hopefully regular) Wednesday Words slot. However, whereas in its previous incarnation, Wednesday Words was a showcase for excerpts from my novels and a few other peoples novels too, this new version is my chance to get off my chest some of the stuff that annoys the f*&k out of me about the world we live in in the twenty-first century. And my first topic – the NHS, supposedly the pride of the country.

Now, cards on the table, this is today’s topic because of something that happened to me yesterday, and it’s a bit of a sore point so excuse me for ranting.

NHS-logoIn general, I don’t have much use for the NHS for the simple reason that I’m a reasonably healthy and still relatively young man. But I do of course know people who use it, and on the whole, barring a few niggles here and there, their experience of the fine, highly trained healthcare professionals we have in this county has been pretty fantastic.  So don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with our doctors and nurses. They are to be respected on both an individual and professional level.

Where I have a problem is accessing these wonderful healthcare experts. It’s the system I have a problem with.


Yesterday, I had to call our GP’s surgery to get an appointment for our daughter, who has been running a high temperature for a couple of days and has a nasty cough. Now, I accept this isn’t exactly a live or death emergency, but the little tyke has only just turned two and even though it’s my second child, I still worry and felt that getting the opinion of a trained professional was worthwhile if for nothing else than my (and my wife’s) peace of mind.

On calling, the phone was answered with a very curt “Can you hold please” (after I got through the recorded menus which seem mandatory whenever you phone any kind of organisation these days, of course), which I found to be, frankly, quite rude. Certainly, if I or any other member of the Management Team at work had heard one of our staff answering the call in this way we’d have pulled them up on it. Common curtsey doesn’t cost anything, especially when your job is client facing, regardless of how ‘stressed’ you are.

The client/customer is always right – isn’t that what they used to say?

Of course, “the customer is always right” applies when said customer is paying and may well withhold that payment if they don’t get the service they think they warrant. And I’m not paying to use the GPs surgery, am I? At least, not directly, I‘m not.

Anyway, after that curt greeting and five minutes on hold, I ask if it’s possible to see the doctor today as I’ve had to take the day off work to look after my daughter for the day already.

“Oh? No, I have nothing today. The next available appointment is Thursday at 8:50,” was the response. Two days away! Good job it wasn’t an actual emergency then, wasn’t it?

I asked for  a “triage call back” instead – I don’t think I’d have even been offered that if I hadn’t asked –  and about a quarter of an hour later, the staff nurse called me back, listened to my daughter’s symptoms and promptly told me I could see the doctor at the surgery in half an hour.

Really? You have appointments? But I thought there weren’t any until Thursday. That’s what I was told.

What a stupid arsed system that is. Here are all the hoops, jump through them please and then you can access the service THAT YOU’VE ALREAY PAID FOR WITH YOUR TAXES!

And I think that’s what annoys me the most here. They make it difficult to access the service to weed out the time wasters who use the service willy-nilly simply because it’s free.

Free at the Point of Use. The over-riding, most sacred principle of the National Health Service. I may be wrong, and feel free to correct me if I am, but I think that Britain’s NHS is the only one with that principle. Certainly in France, the only other Health System I’ve had experience of, you pay your doctor at the end of your consultation and claim the money back from the state afterwards.  And it’s decent enough idea really. Free Health Care for All! How can that be a bad thing? Except it’s not “free” is it? It’s paid for by your taxes. It’s “free at the point of use” but you pay for it every single month out of your pay packet regardless of if you’ve used it that month or not.

Unless you’re on Benefits Street, of course, in which case you’re not paying taxes so you’re not paying for the Health Service at all. Then it really is free.

But there are problems with “Free at the Point of Use” and one of them is that because you’re not shelling out for it each time you use it, there’s no curbs on how much you can use it. It’s completely unregulated, which is why they put the roadblocks up to stop people woho don’t really need to see the doctor from taking up spaces required by those people that DO need to see a doctor.

And I for one think that that is the wrong. It’s wrong that I should have to explain to a receptionist and then again to a nurse why I deserve to access a service I’ve already paid for before I’m deemed worthy enough to access it. I think it’s wrong that people are allowed to book appointments “just in case they need them” and then either not turn up or cancel late, taking up space that someone who really needs the appointment.

So much about the NHS annoys me, and it’s not the care one receives – which in my experience has always been great. The doctors and nurses I’ve encountered over the years have always been kind and caring and helpful – as one should expect from those who choose to enter such a profession. But the system is messed up. The system needs sorting out. I have no problem with paying for a service I rarely  use because I know it is used by people who desperately need it. I don’t begrudge my taxes funding the doctors and nurses of this county. I don’t begrudge contributing to the care of cancer patients and accident and emergency centres and heart operations and care of the elderly and disabled, and all those other great and worthy things the NHS does.

But I would like to see my GP on the rare occasions I need to, without having to give my whole medical history over the phone to someone who couldn’t even be bothered to say “Good Morning” when she first answered and then left me on hold for five minutes.


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