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Forms need no reformation



Of all the petty-minded bureaucracy, idiotic tick-boxing and counterproductive diktats handed down by our ivory-tower dwelling managerial colleagues in the NHS; the one thing that really blows the mercury through the top of the tube for me (or would if we were allowed mercury sphygmomanometers) is the constant changing of referral forms.

Let us imagine, hypothetically, you have a brightly coloured form. Let’s say, for argument’s sake, it is yellow and let us further suppose any health professional who qualified since John Major was PM were aware of its very specific function: for the prescribing of controlled drugs to dying patients.

Fast forward to Friday afternoon, you are the only doctor on duty and you get an urgent call from the palliative care team to say the yellow form you diligently completed the previous day, in anticipation of the patient’s decline, is no good as they have now switched to a new form. You argue, quite reasonably in your view, that as the patient is dying and in distress, could the team not just issue the medication using the old form and perhaps we could sort the paperwork out later.

After all, you implore, surely the patient’s pain relief is all that really matters. You may find yourself smattering the last part of your speech with silently mouthed obscenities, but then we are only human. You are politely informed by an individual whose job is clearly not as valuable as the colour of a medication form, that no, you must complete the correct form or the drugs cannot be administered.

There then follows a stream of very naughty Anglo-Saxon expletives and a desperate search through the endless list of online forms. After much searching you find the latest version which, to your delight, turns out to be a 12-page document with one paragraph relevant to the prescribing of drugs in end of life care.

Needless to say the form does not work and the palliative care team end up having to bring a paper version of the new form in to the surgery for you to complete by hand.

Unfortunately, this account is a not a hypothetical scenario written in the second person, but as you have probably guessed by now, how my working week ended recently.

‘Replacing things that do not need replacing with things that work less well than the original and being bloody minded about it’ may as well be emblazoned as a mission statement on lapel badges and issued to all NHS management.

Dr David Turner is a GP in west London

READERS' COMMENTS [6]

Edmund Willis 6 November, 2020 4:56 am

The nhs is bizarre.
Working at present in Denmark. Here there are very few different forms which are all in our practice IT system. It takes seconds to complete them generally by cutting and pasting our clinical notes and then we send them off electronically. No paper at all ever! And all prescriptions also electronic.
Is that hard?
Come on bma rcgp ccg etc etc do your job.

Patrick Flynn 6 November, 2020 11:36 am

‘Come on bma rcgp ccg etc etc do your job.’ Just this once! Pretty Please! Pretty, Pretty Please!

James Cuthbertson 6 November, 2020 12:37 pm

This could be solved in a heartbeat if the powers that be were interested. But, remember, GP time is free, so there is no motivation.

Patrick Mcnally 11 November, 2020 12:08 am

Please contact your LMC. This is fixable. It doesn’t have to be like this.
Your LMC can coordinate a boycott of any unilateral forms imposition. There’s not usually any contractual obligation to fill out any referral form, so they should be for mutual agreement between practices (via LMC) and providers.

You can suggest they speak to me about how this works well in Oxfordshire. Boycott has been in place since 2009 and local providers largely understand the process by now. We remind them if they forget.
Contact me at BBOLMC if you are interested…

Patrufini Duffy 12 November, 2020 12:38 pm

I agree. These managers, deputys and advisors love a box, demographic update – junky patient information data abusers. Just remember the UK government and NHS uses GPs as slave data gatherers, because no other profession can be tricked or are stupid enough to accept an alcohol box or what newspaper they like box. And they’re monitoring you through EMIS and SystemOne, click by click. Like that DNAR – had to be red coloured. If you were colour blind who cares?! Sorry, it’s all just an invalid fictious game.

Charles Richards 17 November, 2020 4:05 pm

The real burn is when it turns out after weeks of SEA, complaint and managerial nausea, that the original yellow form was OK all the time but you can’t be too careful and denying analgesia to a patient dying in agony is preferable to undermining the confidence of a jobsworth who has already had 18 week off sick with stress this year.