A view backstage at Beverley Minster

Why are we waiting? Why are we waiting?

Neil Pickford gets impatient.
Oh dear, I’ve got a feeling that I’m going to upset some people this week (unlike most weeks, of course) and so I’d better get my apologies in early.
I’m sorry. I’m very, very sorry. I’m incredibly sorry. I’m really unbelievably sorry, I truly am.
I do apologise.
And before I proceed any further I must also put in the inevitable qualification: all nurses are angels (bless them), doctors do their very, very best in very difficult circumstances (bless them) and consultants are the source of all wisdom – gods of expertise that we mere mortals can count ourselves lucky to share a planet with (bless them).
And the NHS (bless it)  – which is the envy of the world (of course) has built up a pool of management expertise that is second to none (bless), having been granted vast resources to train and develop the skills necessary to coordinate this enormous organisation.
So why in the name of all God’s creation does it take so unbelievably long to get the results back from any simple test?
OK, you’ve probably guessed by now that I’ve had a trip to Castle Hill recently – and you’d be right. And let’s just nail down another set of qualifying remarks as well before I get going. Castle Hill is terrific, a fantastic facility that doesn’t want for investment or the latest equipment –  it’s clean and well-lit, it’s a pleasure to visit and I always feel better when I get inside compared to my condition when I stick the parking ticket inside the windscreen.
So why do I have to wait so long to find out if I’m dead or not, or about to die or – perhaps more irritatingly – if I can expect a trouble-free stroll to my dotage (because if I am then I’d better start thinking about pensions and retirement planning Pretty Darn Quick).
Long delays are not exclusive to our local NHS providers – I’ve been to a lot over the years in all parts of the country (mostly for other people, I’m glad to say) and the one thing you hear time and time again is that you’ll have to wait – for weeks and even months.
Oh, it’s never said like that, of course, because that would be an admission that something is not right – but you never hear: “I’ve just completed the tests and we can give you the answers you want before you leave.”
Actually, that’s not quite true – whenever my wife went in for a foetal scan to check on the development of various Pickford Juniors then we got a print-out of the best picture then and there – which was sensible really. After all, when a mum-to-be is six months pregnant there is a sort of deadline. You don’t want a delay of three months or so if you need to know whether to paint the nursery pink or blue.
So if the Health Service can gear itself up to let you take home pretty scans of the forthcoming baby, why not do the same for other results? Most of them aren’t particularly critical but if they need some expert interpretation then the consultant should be able to sit right down during their next shift and skim through the printouts from the previous day’s tests. Then communicate their conclusions to us as part of the same process – that’s why they have administrative assistants on hand, after all.
And don’t tell me it’s because there’s a backlog – it’s not beyond the wit of man to get rid of those. Once upon a time, just before I became a virger, I was News Editor for NHS Magazine. This was a glossy award-winning publication that collected examples of best practice from parts of the health service and promoted them to the rest. One particular case I remember was from Dorset where waiting lists for a routine form of surgery were stuck at around 18 months from referral.
With the cooperation of surgeons, staff, management and some lateral thinking they buckled down for about four months, imported additional staff, worked weekends and evenings, and got that waiting time down to two weeks. TWO WEEKS! And it’s stayed there ever since despite the staff going back to their normal working patterns once the catch-up was over.
Waiting is a killer – it leads to anxiety that makes the stomach turn acid, destroys sleep patterns and peace of mind, makes the old chuckle muscles weaken through lack of use – it leads to bad temper, a lowering of the overall global happiness index, a breakdown in relationships, a negative instead of positive frame of mind, chemical or alcohol overuse, an increase in weight due to extra comfort-food snacking – in other words, it makes people unwell.  And that is NOT what the NHS (bless it) is supposed to be doing.
That’s something that we virgers know all about, which is why we are always dashing about as fast as we can, responding to problems as soon as we are aware of them – sometimes we manage to travel so fast we go forward in time and get them solved before anyone notices.
That then leaves everyone free to worry about something else instead, like why can’t you ever actually find a virger when you want one.
It’s probably just that we’re keeping someone else happy somewhere else – so please be patient.
Patience is a virtue, you know, he said, (without a trace of hypocrisy).

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