Friday, April 07, 2006

The Best Bureaucracy You Can Find

I want to stay positive about my adoptive land, but there are times when I know deep in my heart where the Monty Python players got much of their material about contemporary British life 35 to 40 years ago, and one can guess that little has changed. My experience with the Vogon Galactic Bank being a shining example (although I now have a debit card in my hands), and today's absurd experience with the National Health Service being another.

I have a medical condition that is easily maintained through a very inexpensive drug that has been on the market for decades. If I get a proper dosage, all is fine. If I don't, there's a risk to my health, and, frankly, a potential public safety hazard. Thus, it's good for me to get my medication. And to get my medication, I need to be signed up with NHS.

I've had a healthy supply of my medication, but it's now looking like we're down to a month's supply, so this is something that needs to be taken care of soon. But as an American, it's really hard to know where to start. However, the NHS has an 800 number. A very nice gentleman tells me that I need to register with my nearest doctor, and all will be taken care of. And conveniently, the NHS web site has a way of searching for your nearest doctor by postcode. The web site is revelatory: It tells me there's one about a half mile away down the hill, and there's one six-tenths of a mile away in the opposite direction, up the hill. But the instructions were explicit–the nearest doctor.

So I walk in the automatic sliding glass front doors of the practice and am greeted by a receptionist. I tell her I'm there to register. She asks me where I live, and I respond.
"Is that in N19 or N6?" she asks.
"N6," I respond.
"Oh, we only take patients in N19. You need to go to ..."
"Yeah, I know where it is."

I wheel about and turn to leave through the automatic doors. The doors don't open--even though a sign on the glass says, "Automatic door." I'm confused. Then I see to the left, on the wall, a sign that says, "Push button to open door." Um, that's not an automatic door if I need to push a button to open it. Even the egresses have bureaucracy.

So, the interesting thing about this whole affair is that I actually entered my postcode and according to the instructions I was given, went to the nearest doctor. It would seem to me that if the enrollment is postcode driven, that entering one's postcode would direct one to the right doctor--but I assume far too much in a country that invented and perfected bureaucracy.

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6 Comments:

Blogger Simon said...

But you're welcome, nonetheless.

4:35 PM  
Anonymous The Old Man From Scene 24 said...

My "inurance" here in the US is just as bad, go to the web site pick the office to go to and then get hit with tons of charges for going to the wrong place...

5:50 PM  
Anonymous The Old Man From Scene 24 said...

My "inurance" here in the US is just as bad, go to the web site pick the office to go to and then get hit with tons of charges for going to the wrong place...

5:50 PM  
Blogger Middle Kid said...

You need to re-watch "Brazil."

7:37 PM  
Anonymous fatslug the impetuous said...

When they direct you to the Ministry of Silly Walks, you'll know you're in trouble then.

2:13 PM  
Anonymous pseudonymous in nc said...

Actually, no: the Indians perfected bureaucracy on the British model.

Anyway, your big mistake was to go to the website, rather than ring the two surgeries and see which one covered your area. The UK government websites are very not joined up.

Your helpful NHS Direct man also forgot that London works differently to the rest of the UK, thanks to various historical boringness to do with local health authority boundaries. If you were in a small town, he'd have been on the mark.

8:28 PM  

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