Discharge Lounge

I wonder if there’s a word for the combined feeling of being underwhelmed and infuriated. I hope there is. It would be such a peculiarly English – not Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish; they have the good grace to not be so hard done by – (or perhaps Finnish) sensation. Which is why it is curious that it most often comes about during interactions with some aspects of our National Health Service.

I’m not about to run down the NHS; we have a Conservative government for that. I genuinely feel that the NHS is one of the things which we in this country do better than anyone else on the planet. I also feel that some aspects of the provision of healthcare at the point of service work less well than others, and that it is ok to be monumentally infuriated every once in a while. I need a rant today.

Some aspects of the NHS are better than others. I have never had a bad time while receiving health care. I have never had a bad experience with medical health professionals. It’s everything else which makes me shake my head in disbelief. I think it is understood that the way the Trusts have tried to monetise their assets – TV, Phones, Car Parking – is beyond the pale. This is something else to that.

One day – just one day – I would like a bunch of pharmacists get together to write a full explanation of what it is that they do behind that counter. I would feel so much better at waiting for several days at a time for a prescription if I understood the checks, the balances, the processes behind them and my prescription coming together. Instead, I know nothing: I am tapping my feet, wasting my time, feeling that they are deliberately messing me about for reasons I cannot wrap my puny head around.

This morning my partner and I had an appointment at our local hospital. Last time we were checked in incorrectly, and so ended up sitting there for several hours, while a score of pregnant women came and went, with their greaser boyfriends in tow. Eventually, after several lies by administrators, we were seen by a sonographer. The feelings about this appointment were already pretty soured.

This time everything in the clinic went smoothly. Except for the unnecessarily wet and quiet doctor, who seemed reluctant to offer a medical opinion, commission any tests or be of any help at all. If the prescription they gave us had been filled out correctly the day would have been so much better.

The prescription could only be filled out in the hospital. That was fine, we were already there. We had been told before that the hospital were the only people who stocked the correct dosage of this particular type of medicine, so it seemed like a boon. The problem was that they were very slow.

Very slow is one thing: every single pharmacist I have ever been to has been almost glacially slow. I once went in to a local pharmacist to buy something off the shelf, and it took more than ten minutes of queuing to get my packet of painkillers – including the person on the till attempting to queue-jump someone ahead of me because I was “clearly” being “served” – even though it was in my hand.

Slow is what I expect from a pharmacist. It colours the fact that what I hope from a pharmacist is a comfortable chair. Waiting is what they make me do; do they make you wait too? I wish the doctor had written the quantity of medication required on the prescription (“Script” if you work around medicines, apparently), so that the pharmacist didn’t have to spend a full 25 minutes on the phone to someone who could barely speak above a whisper. 25 minutes out of our 45 minutes spent there.

The doctor had clearly panicked – for a start they had chosen a dosage of medication which had never been manufactured – because they ordered us more medication than the hospital had in stock. This is not a small hospital: this is an absolutely enormous place. That caused some degree of confusion amongst the staff of the hospital pharmacy. We were offered 24, and told that we would have to come back for the rest. We were told that we could have half size portions, so that the correct dosage could be assembled by using two injections every day. That was never going to work.

We sat and we waited; we waited and we sat. Other customers complained that we were not being seen. More people came in to collect medicines, and distract the myriad prescribing staff from doing their opaque jobs and getting our medications together. I missed a meeting which I was leading. Time drifted by as we caught glimpses of many people wandering about with parts of our order, as if we were in a poorly staffed restaurant, with our docket lost in the apron of a confused waiter. My eyes were rolling so hard I comedically thought I was going to lose them down the back of my head.

Today was the apotheosis of the worst of pharmaceutical service: for all of the aimless chattering I normally experience, this took it to new heights; for all of the ways that pharmacy staff wander around their areas without purpose, today featured more people and more aimless meandering than ever before; for all of the garbled misinformation we hear, today’s shite was just impenetrable.

Knowing is half the battle, and if pharmacists the world over would just break down the barriers and tell us what it is about their jobs which takes so long, I might understand. I have never encountered more disingenuous apologies than I have from a member of staff in a pharmacy, telling me that they were sorry that I had had to wait for so long. Not having a particular medicine in stock is something I can handle far more than the wall of supreme ignorance and customer hatred they routinely show.

Sometimes I just need an incoherent rant about something I suspect other people have also had an experience of. This particular rant has been building up for quite some time: years in fact. My utter mouth-breathing contempt for the way pharmacists treat people is without end. Join me, will you?