Oooh Matron

It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.

At the risk of releasing my inner Victor Meldrew, sometimes it does seem as though life has got needlessly complicated in many areas.

I was accused of acting like a teenager yesterday (ironically by an eye-rolling teenager) because I was walking across a car-park with my nose glued to my phone screen. Not because I was checking out my Insta likes, or seeing what’s hot on TikTok, but because I was trying to get the stupid car-parking App to work so I didn’t get a ticket. I have more parking Apps downloaded on my phone than anything else; in the same way that there are as many recipes for authentic moussaka as there are Greek matriarchs, there seems to be as many different car parking Apps as car parks.

Why? When number plate recognition can work out how many times, I’ve been through the Dartford Tunnel, why can a car park not register when I arrived, when I left and charge me accordingly? Don’t get me started on the number of car parks where the mobile phone signal completely vanishes (something to do with all that lovely concrete perhaps) so you have to wander around waving your phone in the air like an idiot to get through to the App. Or on the disappearance of pay-by-cash-or-card machines. Town centres are becoming no-go areas for elderly people who don’t have smart-phones. I know eventually even the smartphone generation will be pensioners, but for now, a great many people don’t have access to smartphones. These people still matter.

There is a massive amount of information floating around about our health and our status. So why did I spend well over an hour and lose a good deal of my sanity last week, trying to fill out a pre-op questionnaire for a nonagenarian relative? The question covered everything from household status to the medication that may or may not have been prescribed for pretty much every body part. Each section took me, someone who is relatively tech-savvy, and used to zipping through touch screens, recognising what questions are relevant and which ones aren’t, a good 10 minutes. I lost count of the number of times I had to input the same information, in the same format, as the answer to a slightly different question. My relative is still in possession of every one of the marbles they were born with, but still would have come a cropper had they not had help. Then, they had to go through the answers again when she had the pre-op appointment. No doubt this will happen again at the main appointment. It’s a minor procedure, we’re not talking open heart surgery, but the request for information was overwhelming.

What annoys me is that all the details of the medication are a) is on the medical records and b) input and accessed by people who supposedly understand the terminology and the background. I have no idea what the poxymoxydoxycillian pills that are taken twice a day alongside the loxyfoxywhatthehelloxycillian pills are actually for, and neither did they by the time we’d finished.

If Sainsburys can send me vouchers for money off pet insurance on the grounds the amount of cat food I buy indicates I have a pet, then why could the hospital not access medical records and fill out the details?

In the great scheme of things, it’s a minor grumble. We are so lucky to have our health service, and I get that there are massive staffing and time pressures on the NHS I really do. But it just seems that there would be slightly less pressure if certain things were done a bit more efficiently.

carry on doctor




About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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