Saturday, 10 September 2011

Press '1' if you're suicidal. Press '2' if you're just thinking about it.

The NHS (that's the National Health Service for non-natives - a medical care system that contrives to be simultaneously both free at the point of service and poor value for money). You couldn't make it up. Several weeks ago, in search of a free detox, I rang the number my GP had given me for our local NHS addiction treatment provider. There was nobody there. Now I'm neither paranoid nor delusional but, if I were, I suspect this would have been enough to push me over the edge. When I rang back later, a nice lady asked me some questions about my drinking, which I answered honestly.

'Right, then,' she said, 'we'll be in touch'.

'About what?' I asked.

'About making an appointment for you to come in for an assessment.' Shit-for-brains, she didn't add.

'But you've just assessed me.'

'No, that was the pre-assessment.'

'So, when will you contact me?'

'Oh, about two weeks, I should think. There's a bit of a waiting list.'

I hung up. So you have to get in a waiting list to receive a phone call to make an appointment to go to Trowbridge to get assessed to determine whether you need admission and this is after you've just told someone you drink two bottles of wine a night. After some reflection I realised that this is in fact a brilliant stratagem for meeting targets. Make your drug addicted patients wait long enough for help that they've requested shortly after hitting rock bottom and they mysteriously disappear from the waiting list. Often under the wheels of a train. Problem solved. Ingenious!

As some of you know, I've been through two pyschiatrists, hell, a clinical psychologist, a course of Chlordiazepoxide and several dozen Baclofen tablets since this farcical phone call. So when I received the follow up call yesterday (the one about making an appointment to get assessed) I had to exercise all my self-restraint not to unleash my formidable arsenal of the lowest form of wit.

'It's OK.' I said. 'I went private.'

'So we can close your file?'


'Oh good. Well done.'

I'm not sure whether the nurse was addressing this closing remark to me or to herself. Either way, I'm in the statistics as another triumph for the NHS.

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