It could be worse - you could be an NHS manager
Dr David Turner
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Think of your worst heart sink patient.
The sort of patient that merely the mention of their name gives you palpitations and that feeling in the pit of your stomach like you’ve just eaten half a kilo of molten Gouda. Now metaphorically kiss that patient’s feet, for– irritating as they are – at least you never have to deal with worse than this.
Thank your 18-year-old self for writing ‘Medicine’ on an UCCA form a few decades ago, because if that 18-year-old had made a different choice, you could well be spending your day dealing with problems that are much worse than your most emotionally draining heart sink patient, without respite.
For example, NHS meetings. Meetings are awful at the best of times, but when they are dominated by NHS clipboard holders and box tickers, who seemingly spend their days dreaming up nebulous schemes to ‘improve the patient experience’ or some such managerial claptrap, they turn into an experience only rivalled for entertainment value by un-anaesthetised root canal surgery.
During such meetings, I daydream about sitting in my consulting room listening to a heart-sink patient go on about their itchy teeth or that ‘strange vibration I get in my toes when I cough doctor’. For even at their worst, these patients are at least honest. Their symptoms may be imagined, but they do feel real to them. Whereas some of the latest initiatives dreamt up by bright sparks in NHS England could only possible have any connection with the reality in a Walt Disney film.
It’s not just the pointless schemes that you know will either a) never get off the ground or b) stop abruptly when the money dries up. There is also the language they use. I mean, what the hell is a ‘doodle pole’, a rough sketch of someone from Warsaw?
Each week hundreds of health care professional hours are spent sitting around discussing what shade of varnish to paint the deckchairs on the Titanic with, while outside all hell is breaking loose; A&E departments bursting at the seams, patients waiting five hours for ambulances, suicidal patients told to go home and call the Samaritans, and yet the powers that be carry on fiddling while Rome burns.
So, the next time you see a heart sink patient, think about what would you prefer; to listen to their five-minute monologue about how that latest blood pressure pill made their wee smell of Sugar Puffs, or spend your day devising yet another scheme to irritate GPs with?
Dr David Turner is a GP in North West London