Admittedly, my initial reaction to the current blood test tube debacle was one of delight. No, I can’t repeat the U&Es two weeks post-discharge to check a borderline sodium and ‘manage as appropriate’ because I haven’t a receptacle to collect that precious sodium in, so back to you, ‘discharge co-ordinator’, co-ordinate your way out of that.
But I might be taking the problem more seriously in a patient with an unrevealed Hb of 7.8, causing their breathlessness and underlying colon cancer to be untreated and undiagnosed. And very seriously indeed if it’s me that ends up getting sued because of any delay.
I guess we should be getting used to it, really, because for as long as I care to remember, there’s been no shortage of shortages. They’ve affected appointments, antidepressants, PPE, staff, GPs, HRT, locums, oxygen, money and so on. What next? Stethoscopes? X-rays? Lubricating jelly?
In fact, the only thing we’re not short of is patients. Particularly angry patients. If they’re not scrawling graffiti on our surgery walls, they’re threatening to plant pipe bombs or throwing bloodstained tissues at us, though that might be the result of having nowhere to store the phlebotomy sample.
And that incandescent anger’s going to escalate as they unfairly blame us for the way these shortages compromise their care. After all, as is often pointed out, we GPs are always the final common psychopathway.
So what’s the answer? Well, it’s simple: put the NHS supply chain in charge of the supply of patients. If we could generate a national patient shortage, we’d be fine – via a patient manufacturing problem, say, or by importing a faulty batch of patients not fit for registration, or by PCSE inadvertently subtracting 1,000 patients from our monthly list sizes.
Think about it: how many times have we said that this job would be just fine if it wasn’t for the patients? Today, I mean? See, it’s a no-brainer: create a shortage of patients and all the other shortages would look after themselves. After all, the patients have bled the NHS dry for years, so now it’s their turn. Just as soon as we get those test tubes.
Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. Read more of Copperfield’s blogs at http://www.pulsetoday.co.uk/views/copperfield