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On Tuesday I had a flare up of an ailment I sometime get (once or twice a year) in my foot. A simple medicine takes care of it – but it requires a prescription.

Irritatingly, I went to take my medicine to find I only had 1 or 2 pills left. On Wednesday, I called by doctors surgery to ask if they can give me another prescription for the medicine. They’ve prescribed it before and it’s not a very dangerous class of drug.

Reception at my doctors responded:

“I’m sorry, we can’t take requests for prescriptions over the phone. You’ll have to put the request in writing and pop it in the mailbox in reception of the surgery.”

Ugh. Thursday I was out and about seeing clients, so I didn’t get a chance to hand in my written request to the surgery.

On Friday morning, I head in with my request and politely ask – when will it be ready? The answer – Monday or Tuesday next week.

The problem with this is, the ailment I have is incredibly painful. I would have to wait 3 or 4 more days just to get my script (and then a few more days for the medicine to take effect).

Seeing my distress – reception offered to book me an emergency appointment with the doctor so they could write a script for me there and then. Which I have to say, was super nice of her.

Coming back later in the day for my appointment, I can’t help but (politely!) ask the GP on duty – what’s the reason you can’t take a prescription request over the phone? The answer was immediate and without thinking:

“It’s too risky. There are 2 opportunities for an error – the patient could pronounce the medicine wrong and the reception could write it down wrong. Better to have it in writing to reduce the chance of error”

Fair enough. You might have guessed my next question then…

“Why can’t I email or text you the request?”

Well… the GP had no initial response. Eventually, having hunted around in her mind for an excuse, she replied, I guess it’s always better to have an appointment so we can be sure.

I didn’t press the issue (I’m not a horrible git).

But the problem with the Doctors response is that it’s contradictory. Because they CAN take requests for a prescription without having an appointment – it just has to be a request in writing (on paper) and handed into the office.

This one little interaction is completely illustrative of the waste in the NHS system. Here’s a little table of effort:

 

Action Me Surgery Reception Doctor
Calling about ordering a script Phone call Phone call
Writing letter requesting a script Letter
Taking letter to surgery Travel
Discussing with Reception Conversation Conversation
Booking an apt Conversation Conversation
Returning to surgery for apt Travel
Seeing Doctor Appointment Appointment
Writing Script Script

 

This interaction could easily have been like this:

 

Action Me Surgery Reception Doctor
Emailing or texting requesting script Text/Email
Writing Script Script

I’m not upset about the inconvenience to me (I’m a big boy). But let’s face it – it’s a poor customer experience.

What is more frustrating though, is the waste of time and therefore money this presents. We constantly hear in the media how the NHS is in trouble – it’s too expensive, they’re cutting budgets etc.

But the reality is, there are thousands of examples of waste like this one that could be resolved in a matter of days or weeks.

I’m not bashing the NHS – I love the free health care service this country has – it’s just that it could be so much better.

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