A strange thing happened the other day. Dr Grumble was seeing patients and a nurse offered him a cup of tea. This is not altogether unheard of but Dr Grumble generally declines. Sipping tea in front of patients doesn't come over too well. But, as it happens, Dr Grumble has started seeing the odd private patient and, because they have bigger slots, Dr Grumble often has time for tea. So, because he had time, Dr G accepted the nurse's offer of a cuppa. Now normally if you accept such offers you get a chipped and often somewhat grubby mug. But you are grateful nevertheless. On this occasion it was different. The tea was delivered by a smart waiter. There was a pot, a cup and saucer and a doily. And biscuits. Dr Grumble was amazed and then he thought a bit and wondered if he really should be amazed that somebody gives him a cup of tea - especially since he pays for the private rooms. And then he thought again and remembered that decades ago when he was a house physician in a large London teaching hospital everybody sat down to tea in the middle of the ward round. There was a big china teapot, cups and saucers and, yes, doilies.
Thinking a little more Dr Grumble remembers many times in the past when he used to have such breaks. The doilies disappeared but ward rounds as a junior doctor were often punctuated by coffee breaks. These occasions were immensely valuable because it enabled a different sort of information to flow between the consultant and the others. But now, as you will have guessed, Dr Grumble never has such a break - except on the rare occasion that he is in the private wing. Dr Grumble rarely passes the time of day with his juniors. We are all too busy with clinical information being passed hurriedly from one person to another following which Dr Grumble issues his orders staccato fashion. It's not good but there is little time for anything else.
So it made Dr Grumble laugh when the oldest Grumble child, a medical student at St Elsewhere's, came home for Easter and related what he had overheard a manager saying in the corridor. It went like this:
"What? The consultants don't have a break? Not even 10 minutes?
Yound Edward Grumble thought this was very funny. It's both funny and sad at the same time. Unfortunately NHS managers have no idea how things are at the coalface and they reveal their ignorance even to medical students. This one overheard remark will colour the young Grumble's view of NHS managers for some time to come. And worse, he's told everybody else.