I had occasion recently to sample the best and the most inefficient of the National Health Service. On the Bank Holiday weekend contacted the out-of-hours service . I did not find it wanting.
I made the call to 111 shortly before one o’clock on the Sunday afternoon. There was an immediate response and I found myself talking to a medical practitioner who fired a battery of questions at me with utmost courtesy and professionalism. At the end of it she asked me to hold the line.
Within a minute she came back to say I could expect a call in the next 24 hours. At precisely 1.15pm the phone rang and I was talking to the receptionist at the out-patients department of the DGH who asked if I could get to the hospital by 3pm. Having checked in I was seen well before the appointed time.
The downside concerned the state of affairs at the DGH. On that Sunday there was not another soul in the waiting area of the out-patients department. Apart from the receptionist and the doctor who attended to me, there was an almost deathly hush in the place.
Having provided a sample for the doctor, he said that as it was a bank holiday, there would be no chance of it being tested for two days. Nor could I get the medicine he was prescribing me in the hospital as there was no dispensary. ‘I suggest you go to Sainsbury’s. They’re open until four’. A supermarket could provide the necessary service but the most likely place in the scheme of things could not.
The DGH involves a massive amount of plant. If a sizeable chunk of it is shut down at weekends, does this not constitute a substantial waste of resources?