I recently accompanied a guy to an appointment with a consultant at the local hospital as part of my job. The consultant was your classic, staid, stuffy, be-spectacled, salt-and-pepper-haired, dead-eyed psychopath of a clinician. Which made it all the more strange when he entered ‘BANTER MODE’, like some android clicking a switch in its positronic brain.
‘Yes, and who’s this with you? Marvellous. Where are you living now? Is it nice there? Good. Good. Is that OK with you? Are you happy with that? Yes, and have you had a good day?’
The doc seemed unused to and uneasy about chatting like this with people like us. It made me imagine Frasier Crane being trapped in an elevator with the cast of Still Game. The ‘conversation’ was stilted and forced, like small-talk by check-list. There was a good reason for this:
He had a check-list.
This he presented at the end of the consultation, complete with pen and clip-board. One of the questions was – and I paraphrase slightly due to lack of a photographic memory – ‘Did the doctor have a friendly demeanour and seem interested in you as a human being rather than just treating you like a number?’
Poor prick. On top of having to remember thousands of facts about the part of the human body in which he specialises, and trying really hard not to accidentally murder people, some little pen-pushing, number-crunching bureaucrat is forcing him to be jolly and natural with people according to a very strict set of criteria in order to satisfy government friendliness targets. That explains his banter, which I admit was perfectly natural – but only if by using the word ‘natural’ you mean to evoke thoughts of natural occurrences like floods, turds and strokes. How much is this survey shit costing? And who really cares? I don’t want my doctor to be nice to me. I just want him not to kill me.
‘Ah, so good to see you. Ha ha ha, charming, charming. So, how’s your sister? Is she? Oh, marvellous, marvellous… by the way, you’ve got AIDS.’
Doctors have a gruelling enough job without having to contend with customer satisfaction surveys. Especially GPs. Imagine how horrible it must be for them to have had to listen to 16,000 old ladies per day wittering on about their sons’ new jobs; the weather; their ancient, battered and leaking prolapsed arseholes; how their daughters-in-law don’t cook properly for their sons; how ungrateful their sisters are; how it ‘wisnae like that’ in their day, and generally droning on and on and on and on and on, with neither pause nor end, because they’ve fuck all else to do on a Tuesday afternoon and all of their friends are dead. And now the old incessant, piss-scented yammerers have been handed check-lists? Jesus, that’s like handing Jason Vorhees a chainsaw seconds after calling him a mongo. Heaven help our GPs.
‘I got the feeling that the doctor just wasn’t interested in the work history of my son Johnny, the electrician. He’s in that Gibraltar, you know. But I’m not keen on that wife of his, oh no. Thinks she knows it all. Never listens to what I tell her, well, she’ll learn the hard way, so she will, it’s like I’ve been saying to my friend, Jeannie, she’s the one with the bad foot, she lives doon that road that’s filled with the gays and the junkies. Well, it’s no fur the likes of me to be spreading the gossip and that, but she wiz in that corner shop the other day and she saw that yin and that other yin coming in and buying a…’
ENOUGH! No checklist, OK, NHS? What I want from my doctors is simple. If I’ve cancer, catch it. If I’ve chlamydia, get riddae it. If I’ve a dicky heart, help make it start. OK? I don’t want to be my doctor’s BFF, lol oh doccy you be my bestest pal ever pinky swear you will be lol. Right? So let’s help end this madness.
By taking part in my ‘Should the NHS conduct customer satisfaction surveys?’ survey!