Last week I had to avail myself of some of this National Health I have heard so much about. Having come off second best in a rugby tackle (though heroically soldiering on, stemming the deluge of blood with a little vaseline) I popped off to the local hospital to see about getting them to sew me back up.
After I had explained the ridiculous looking self-help bandage adorning my face to the receptionist I cast my eye around the Wednesday night intake at the A&E department. I had figured I would be in and out in a jiffy, it not being a Friday, Saturday or Sunday and thus missing the majority of the sport and booze related injuries. How wrong I was; 5 to 6 hours was the anticipated wait time.
A Doc popped out and apologised for the "longer than usual delays"; a line I am sure I've heard before somewhere. Anywho, the long and the short of it was I didn't have the whole night to while away sitting in A&E what with a rather early start at work the next day and the requirement to not be asleep at said work. The doc gave me some dressings and suggested I got it seen to first thing in the morning if I couldn't wait. On a side note the Doc the next morning decided my wife had done such a good job with the butterfly stitches he'd just leave it be - clearly she has missed her calling.
Now you may think this is about to turn into a rant at waiting lists, waiting times and the general efficacy of the NHS and its hospitals. It is not. Nope. Maybe some other day - I've not the strength now, though I do remember in my youth when NHS spending was a small fraction of what it is now I never waited more than 4 hours to be seen; money can't buy everything it seems. No, the gripe I have with the hospital today actually doesn't concern the hospital per se, but rather the few acres of tarmac immediately outside its doors. You see, I simply can't stand the hospital parking payment system. My hatred it twofold; I shall, of course, elaborate herein…
Firstly, it seems wrong to me to charge people to visit hospital. If you want to make your go green arguments that we should all take the bus remember you are talking in many cases about people who cannot arrive any other way than by car due to their various ailments. The point is, we've paid for the sodding hospital and its sodding great car park, so how about you let us park there without charging extra? It's not free parking - we've already paid for that too, on top of the middle managers and health based slogans. It seems counter intuitive to penalise those in need of hospital visits or indeed those visiting sick friends or relatives. It minds me very much of kicking a man when he is down.
However, that is not the thing that really gets my goat. What really exercises me is that the slower the service in the hospital (i.e. the worse in a way), the more you are charged. It is the equivalent of the police turning up 2 days late to a burglary and charging the victim whatever the robber did not steal for the pleasure of their wait. When a cab company fails to honour its side of the agreement, we negotiate a discount - if they turn up an hour late, they don't get the full amount. If the NHS fails to provide a timely service though, they are rewarded with extra parking cash and the patient foots the bill.
Perhaps now we see why NHS groups are so keen to treat people in hospital that could perhaps be treated at home. Perhaps this is why despite the billions thrown at the NHS we still have full hospitals and long waits to be treated. Ultimately the sick man is a captive audience cash cow waiting to be milked. Call me a cynic, but when the most efficient part of the department is its car park charging system, it's not that great a leap to hear NHS and see NCP...