Before I begin, I would just like to state, for the record, that I really appreciate this country’s National Health Service (NHS). We have had the luxury of this service for over 60 years and I’m sure most people in the country have benefited from it at some point in their lives. For the most part, I think they get it right, although some of us may have reason to question their methods from time to time.
Over the last week, I have experienced a couple of quirks with our beloved NHS which I would just like to share with you.
Firstly, I received an Appointment Request form from my local branch (I know that makes them sound like a bank, but they do deal with deposits and withdrawals!). The form was divided into sections:
- Booking Reference Number
- Section 1 – Your Details
- Section 2 – How to make your choice and book your appointment
- Section 3 – Your choices
- Your password
- Changing your Password
Section 1 did indeed contain my details, so that was a good start.
Section 2, as you may gather from the title, explained how to choose which venue you wished to attend and how to book the appointment for that venue. There were three options: Telephone, Textphone and Internet. Not being one for sending text messages, I decided to ignore that option. Which left two. Just before the telephone number was a caveat saying that section 3 may have a different telephone number to use.
And so to my choice of venues – correction venue! I could only attend one venue, so no real choice to be made there. However, I still had to decide whether to telephone for a booking or go online. How would I make that choice? Maybe toss a coin?
As I read through the details of the one and only venue from which to choose, I discovered the NHS had managed to remove any choice from me as immediately under the venue name was printed “Online booking for this service is not available”! So, not only did I not have a choice of venues, but also I was restricted to one method of contact.
Now, with a simple piece of software coding on the computer which generates these personalised forms, I could have been sent all the information I required on one page instead of the two pages I received.
So, I telephoned the number printed in section 3, which was different to the one listed in section 2, and was asked to hold whilst the booking system was started. Once the operator was ready, I informed them as to why I was phoning and asked to make an appointment.
“Which venue would you like?” came the response.
I have a choice? Then why doesn’t it show that on this form?
Before I could finalise my booking, I had to give my NHS number and password. The question here is, could I remember them? Oh, not to worry, they are both printed on the booking form. Not Highly Secure!
Which brings me nicely to the second quirk.
I know several NHS employees, most of whom have been NHS staff for at least 20 years, and they have been told they need a special pass to allow them access to certain records.
Fair enough, the data is very sensitive and no one wants it falling into the wrong hands. Just imagine what could happen if someone left their NHS laptop somewhere! 😉
However, in order to get this new security pass, each staff member has to prove who they are. They need to supply a passport plus two recent utility bills showing their address. Now wait a moment – these are NHS staff who already have an NHS security ID; NHS staff who are regularly paid by the NHS; NHS staff who already have access to NHS buildings but they must still prove who they are! Who is issuing these passes – MI5?
Perhaps when these new security passes are issued, the powers that be within this institution could look at documents they send through the post. If they are so concerned with patient privacy, why send NHS numbers, patient details and passwords all in the same letter?