Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Missed

I received a letter today from my local NHS trust. About bloody time, I thought, as I peered at the unopened envelope. It's been a fortnight since my doctor referred me to the specialist. I expected to find an offer for a consultation sometime in the late autumn, or perhaps next year.

But no. This was a letter telling me that they were going to write soon with a date for my appointment.

Eh?

Or more plausibly, WTF?

For many years the NHS was the envy of most other nations. Now, I fear, it is the laughing stock. There's a perfectly logical reason for this letter. Because our gallant leaders want to be seen to be in control, they insist that all government departments aim to reach arbitrarily set targets. One such is probably that all people being referred by a GP for a consultation must be contacted within two weeks of that referral.

The devil is, as ever, in the wording. They must be contacted. Not given an appointment date, or (say it with hushed breath) seen by a consultant. Just contacted.

So a useless letter telling me that they are going to write me another letter soon is enough to fulfil the tick-box part of the bureaucracy. Mid-Wales NHS Trust (or whatever this region is - it seems to change more often than my bed-linen) will not be chastised for failing to meet their customer contact targets, at least in my case.

I have of late been looking for some slightly more remunerative employment than that which I currently have. On paper I am well paid, and have a great deal of work flexibility, but the downside is I am only well paid when there is work to do. Of late such work has been thinner than a supermodel, and whilst I suggested to the dachshund he might like to go out and earn a living, he so far has done nothing more positive than lie down on the jobs pages and make them all muddy.

One job that looked, superficially, to be worth pursuing, was with the local hospital, collecting and collating treatment data. It could have been interesting, but I abandoned the application half way through.

Why? Because in the course of my research I discovered that there are huge teams of such people, in every hospital up and down the land, whose sole purpose is to gather the information that allows the government to track its meaningless targets. This is not epidemiological data, useful in charting the health trends of the nation and so informing decisions as to which branches of medicine might benefit from improved funding. No, this is tracking data, used to discover how quickly (or otherwise) already overworked doctors are getting through their patient workload; how long it takes to get from GP to hip operation.

This data is then used either to claim that the NHS under the current administration is ten times better than the NHS under the previous one, or as a stick with which to beat the doctors and nurses. It leads to yet more ill-thought targets that then divert attention from the real job of the health service - to whit healing the sick - and on to the much more easily done job of finessing the statistics to make it look like they are healing the sick.

The NHS has far too many bureaucrats as it is. My conscience wouldn't allow me to join their ranks, no matter how good the money.

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