It always amazes me when I go to a Doctors surgery in the UK how long they keep you waiting. We went for a quarterly review at Howarth House today. Now our appointment had been booked for 11.30am in the Morning. We arrived in timely fashion at 11.20, were told to wait in the waiting room by a rather unfriendly receptionist, and then left to sit there for what seemed an age.
Finally at 12.00pm I got up and went to reception where three women were in jointed conversation and oblivious to me standing there waiting to be seen. Finally I was noticed when the topic of current gossip had been exhausted, and the receptionist looked at me with a blank expression of disdain.
“Can you please tell me what is going on?” I enquired.
The blank expression deepened as the woman kind of shrugged her shoulders.
“My appointment,” I said. “It was for 11.30!”
“Oh we are running late,” was the reply.
Now see, in my mind when we entered the surgery, the reception knew that the clinic was running late. Surely it is only common decency to inform patients that there is a substantially lengthy wait ahead of them. It wouldn’t hurt to allow patients to make an informed decision about their appointment and how it might impact on other arrangements that they have made through the day.
It is only human to plan your day around an appointment with your doctor. However being a Monday it is again not unreasonable to expect that people will have other plans that might be just as important if not more so than the appointment that you are attending. Again it is just courtesy to inform patients, in order that they can allow for juggling their lives further to allow for the doctors delay.
So why is it that an organisation as large as the NHS has not yet got this ever so simple concept? I have recently had reason to visit a number of NHS facilities and in every one of them I see signs about patients not arriving for their appointments, failing to arrive on time, being punctual, etc. The basic principal is that if you arrive for your appointment 15 min after the time you were meant to be there, your appointment is binned and in some circumstances you’ll be lucky if your not waiting another six months for an appointment.
Fair enough, I accept that not every case is clear cut. Not every patient is going to be seen in the 15 min time slot that they have been allocated. That is perfectly understandable. What is not acceptable is the assumption that the NHS uses when it is running late. It is not ok to assume that your patients are going to just sit around and wait. It is a double sided coin. As much as the doctor does not like being messed around, we the patients don’t appreciate it that much either.
I honestly think that the NHS needs to go back to basics. Loose all the paper pushing middle and senior level management that don’t have a clue about medical matters, loose the impersonal skin that NHS staff seem to be trained to wear the moment they sit behind a desk in a clinic, and realise that customer services is a part of serving the public on a medical level too.
Are we asking too much to be treated with a level of respect and consideration? Is it too much to ask to be kept in the loop and be given the chance to be informed about the impact that NHS decisions and delays will have on our lives? No, I don’t believe that its unreasonable in any way at all, so maybe its about time that we begin to demand this type of respect. We all have difficult and pressurised lives, and stressful work environments. We all have to worry about meeting targets, caring for our dependants, comforting our loved ones and being human beings. We can give respect to those that serve us, and I feel its about high time that the respect we offer is returned.