Wednesday 29 July 2015

Producers versus consumers.

Here's an experiment.

Call your bank and arrange an appointment with your local branch's manager to discuss a business loan. Try to make the appointment for eight o'clock on a Sunday evening.

Here's another.

Go to your local Post Office to post a parcel at two in the morning.

These are thought experiments, really, because the results are so bleeding obvious that real experiments are not necessary.

The thing is, I can absolutely assure you that your bank have lots of staff working away at eight on a Sunday evening. Banks are twenty-four-seven operations. Their overnight and weekend work is vital. For a large bank, there are probably hundreds, maybe thousands of staff at work at that time. So why can't you get an appointment with your local branch manager?

The Royal Mail, similarly, is... well, I don't think it's a twenty-four-seven operation, but it is twenty-four-six, or maybe -five-and-a-half. Correct me if I'm wrong. But the point is that at two in the morning on, say, a Wednesday, hundreds of Royal Mail staff are at work, beavering away — and yet your local Post Office is shut. What the hell is going on?

In reality, this is a huge mystery to no-one at all. We are perfectly capable of understanding the utter lack of paradox involved in an organisation doing some things while not doing other things. We are not baffled by the way Marks & Spencer employ staff even when their shops are shut.

Except, of course, when it comes to the Glorious NHS.

Apparently, British doctors, nurses, and a large chunk of the public are incapable of distinguishing between whether the NHS has any staff at work right now and whether a service is available to the NHS's patients right now.

'I'm in work Jeremy... are you?': Angry doctors take to Twitter to post pictures of themselves on duty after Jeremy Hunt claimed medics weren’t doing enough weekend shifts

NHS staff turned to Twitter to condemn Jeremy Hunt today after he lashed out at the health service for the standard of its weekend care.

Dozens of medical staff posted pictures of themselves in uniform with the hashtag #ImInWorkJeremy in a bid to show the Health Secretary their commitment.

It comes after Mr Hunt suggested senior staff were not working enough weekend shifts and said top doctors should ‘get real’ about the importance of a seven-day service during a radio interview on Thursday.

Bravo. You're at work. Well fucking done. I've done a lot of shift work in my time, so am not that impressed when others go on about it. Yes, working antisocial hours is tough. It's tough for warehouse workers and supermarket shelf-stackers and lorry-drivers and IT support staff and the police and farm labourers and call centre workers, so I'm sure it's tough for doctors and nurses too.

But does the fact that these crowing staff are at work mean that the NHS's services are available to those who need them? Well, no, obviously not. And we all know it, and so, if they're honest, do they.

I have rather a lot of anecdotes about the ways in which the NHS's weekend service is inadequate. Here are two.

As it happens, I need some treatment at the moment. I live in Northern Ireland but work in London. I am registered with the Northern Irish NHS. I'm available in NI at weekends and on bank holidays and every other Friday. Speaking to the NHS staff on the phone about this, it was made clear to me that not only are they not available at weekends, not only would they never work on a bank holiday (as I myself have done for most of my working life and as many millions of people in Britain do for shit wages), but that they won't even be able to see me on a Friday, ever. Friday is apparently a bit too close to the weekend.

Eight years ago, as long-term readers may remember, my wife Vic was in hospital, too damn near death. It was a tough time, made tougher and far more dangerous by a variety of fuck-ups. One weekend, a nurse was insisting on giving her a dose of a drug which her doctors had told us would be dangerous, possibly lethal. (The instructions were fucked up: instead of saying "Vary dose X based on reading Y", they said "Take reading Y and give dose X regardless".) The nurse of course wouldn't change the instructions without the consent of a doctor, so I set off to find one. It took me literally the whole day: hour after hour of searching the hospital, informing staff of how important this was, making phonecalls, being fobbed off. This was, remember, for a matter of what the consultants themselves had assured us would be a dangerous, possibly even a lethal, dose of the drug. Because it was the weekend, there was one doctor on duty to do the rounds of every ward in the entire hospital. This, we were assured, was normal. That doctor eventually made it to Vic that evening, after having been informed of her case and giving it absolutely no priority whatsoever. That's an entire day to get a basic but life-or-death decision made by the only doctor available. In a hospital.

Does making this point mean that I have contempt for all the staff who were working that day or that I think they were doing a shit job? Obviously not. I am grateful to the nurse who listened to us and agreed to delay administering the dangerous dose until a doctor deigned to check it. There are nurses in the NHS (and I've seen it happen) who simply insist on following the chart no matter what. That day, my wife had a sensible nurse, not a jobsworth. Thank God for that.

But that is not the point. This was in the days before social media, but any one of the skeleton staff in the hospital that day could have taken a selfie and bunged it on the Web to prove they were at work. So could the one lone doctor who covered every single ward that day.

So here's my question. What fucking use would those selfies be to any of their damn patients?

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