Thursday 27 July 2006

Just pick up the phone

At some point I need to make an appointment to visit the doctor. No urgency, so easy to procrastinate. Part of my reluctance to ring up and just make that damn appointment is the system that has been in place for the last few years, that all appointments are for the same or the next day. So I can't say, oh no hurry, if there's a fairly unbusy time anywhen in the next fortnight that'll be fine - I'm treated as someone who actually needs a 'here and now' appointment which makes me feel as if I'm making a fuss or, worse, as if I think I'm iller than I actually am (which I'm not, it's just an appointment, really).

I was quite impressed when the system was brought in; guaranteed appointment within 48 hours, wow*. Until I actually wanted to make one for the next week and wasn't allowed to. Especially if you are relying on a friend for a lift, this seems silly - I understand about artificial targets and all that, I'm not blaming them. And then, of course, if you ring and there are no next-day appointments left, apart from urgent cases, you are not allowed to book, and have to ring back the next day, constantly hitting redial at 8.30 in the morning when everyone else is doing the same thing.

So, I've put it off all week and I wouldn't ring on Thursday anyway as Friday is always busy, and Monday mornings are busy too so I won't ring then, and probably I'll forget for the next few days and - well, you see what I mean.

I know the underlying reason for this reluctance of course. I ignore all letters suggesting I make an appointment for any sort of check-up. So I don't want to just drop in, just in case he says 'Ha! Got you here at last - let me check your blood pressure and cholesterol and do all the tests we do just in case.' And I'd be too polite to say no. So I stay away.

You know why I've written this? So that now I have demonstrated, in print, that I am just being silly, I've no excuse any more.

*Geena is bemused, and well she might be.
The government is very keen on targets. It sets targets for everything, except of course for ministerial competence and rectitude. In schools, in the health service, in anything it can get its hands on. And these have to be measurable. It was decided - in some medical practices, correctly - that it took too long to obtain an appointment to see your doctor. Sometimes, if you admitted it was not an emergency, it could take a fortnight. So surgeries were given a 48-hour target for doctors' appointments. So they shrugged their shoulders and gave the government what they wanted.

The obsession with target setting and league tables does nothing to raise standards in itself of course and it can mask real problems. And it's made us all extremely cynical. But hey, *we* voted for them and so are reaping what we sowed.


y.Wendy.y said...

Thanks for explaining that. It sounds absurd and as you said, a cover-up for deeper issues. Surely if enough people protested it could be overturned...or are these just political platforms that are shoved down your throats to serve a politicians/party's own personal agendas? In which, you have little hope of changing things.

Z said...

It's like having an argumentative colleague - you only take them up on the things that really matter to you and that you can do something about. You let most of it just wash past.
The other thing this government does (and it happens in local government too now) is to announce an 'initiative' and then, if there's a lot of protest, cancel or amend it. If it's really dear to their personal agendas, they will try to slip it in anyway, later, lightly tweaked and with minimum publicity.