22 October 2009

Dr Grumble's letters

Every week Dr Grumble writes scores of letters. The NHS cannot afford enough secretaries to do all Grumble's typing so the letters get typed in India. They used to get typed in Canada or New Zealand. Dr Grumble's New Zealand secretary was excellent. The one in India is not so good. The Indians speak English but it is their own sort of Indian English and this comes across in Grumble's letters. Dr Grumble checks his letters online. He can check them from anywhere in the world. He corrects the letters and then they get printed out. Letters to a GP are addressed automatically. Software does this magically from the hospital database. It all sounds very modern but the process has a very strange twist which only the NHS could manage.

The letter is printed out. Dr Grumble then checks it again because all sorts of errors creep in as a result of the computerised element of the process. The letter is then put in an envelope and it is delivered by the postal service to the patient and the patient's GP. The GP then has to read the letter. Quite often the letter goes to the wrong GP. The GPs find this annoying but the computer does not understand that it needs to send the letter to the right doctor. What happens then is very odd. The GP scans the letter, puts it on his computer and shreds the letter. A letter that began as computer code in the hospital is turned into something we can read on paper, taken to the GP's surgery and turned back into something a computer can deal with. It does not take a genius to be able to see that there is a better way. It is called email. But where Dr Grumble works we do not use this newfangled system. Which is odd. Very odd.


dearieme said...

"the NHS embodies something which is truly great about Britain" was sarcasm, then?

smudge said...

if I could spell, I'd be dangerous....

ah - so this would be why letters sent to my sister's GP and copied to her are addressed to her at my home rather than hers then?!

My address is on the hospital's files as I'm her next of kin but she has never lived in my house and it's been over 20 years since we did live in the same house (and I wasn't her NOK in those days.....).

Needless to say, she's given up telling the hospital where she actually lives as it never makes any difference.

Anonymous said...

Most GPs in New Zealand are on an electronic system which allows direct transmission of letters. This works well until the computer breaks down, or when the various types of systems that are available can't talk to each other. But mostly it is ok.

Anonymous said...

re "NHS cannot afford enough secretaries" the NHS can afford enough secretatries, and can afford systems and time for the consultants and docs to do proper letters

it chooses to spend its money on other pointless layers of admin and navel gazing and has little incentive to optimise itself to be efficient or reactive to customer needs

its not a lack of cash, its a crap organisational model and dynamics of incentives for the stakeholders

Anonymous said...

Try getting an NHSmail account then you can email between NHS mail holders. Go to www.nhs.net and register.