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Why is the NHS stuck in a time warp?

This week I put my loved one in charge of ordering three items by phone from a mail order catalogue – something he would have done without a second thought only a few months ago. On this occasion it’s a good job I hovered because he could remember neither the name of our road (we moved here 10 months ago) nor the post code. Fortunately the saleswoman at the other end of the phone was very patient and understanding.

In short things aren’t getting any better. The truth, of course, is that degeneration is clear – exactly as all the medics, media and everyone else confidently and bleakly predict. Our elder son said a week a two ago that he thought his father was worse on Saturday than he had been on the previous Tuesday. This condition is a one way street. Ms Alzheimer’s is here to stay and the foul fiend is very determined.

So MLO needs to try a cholinesterase inhibitor drug as soon as possible. Yes, I know such drugs do nothing more than slow the advancement of the symptoms for a bit. I also know that they don’t suit everyone. The side effects can be pretty unpleasant for some people. Moreover MLO has a slow heart beat (first either of us knew about it and no, he has never been an athlete) so there has to be a second opinion before a prescription decision can be made.

Enter the NHS with all its desperately slow, bureaucratic inefficiency.  MLO was deemed to need a 24 hour ECG monitor to check his heart rate over time. For some unfathomable reason, you are not allowed to make appointments in hospitals – as you would at the dentist, the vet, the hairdresser or the garage which services your car. No, you have to wait until someone deigns to send you a take-it-or-leave-it slot. Who on earth dreamed it up?  It’s an absurd system which must lead to hundreds of no-shows and cost the NHS (actually the tax-payer aka you and me) a huge amount of money. We’re always being told the NHS is strapped for cash. I’m convinced that they could at least dent that a bit if they just exercised some common sense occasionally and recognised that this is 2017, not 1947.

Another gripe is this entirely nonsensical (and costly) letters-in-the-post business. Why on earth can’t they email like the rest of the world? And spare me that facile data protection stuff. It’s just an excuse to do things in the most cumbersome, least convenient possible way.

To make matters worse, they “lost” our referral which means that had I not sought the help of two people in the know who pushed on our behalf, we’d still be waiting for the ECG appointment – indefinitely. Finally, two and a half months after diagnosis, MLO got the test done last week and now we wait for the next stage.

I have just rung and asked if I can make an appointment for MLO see the consultant so that we can get the ball rolling.  No no no, you can’t do that. Silly me. You have to wait until you’re “offered” one.  Why? I’m not trying to jump the queue. I know these things take time. But surely we could all operate like 21st century grown ups – with diaries?

I’ve always been a tooth grinder – at this rate I shall have no teeth left at all by Christmas.

Author information
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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