So, this afternoon my Dad had an appointment with his GP. It wasn't scheduled, he had a flare up of a long-running chest infection, he called, and he was able to see her on the same day. Good service, eh? She told him that he needed to go to the Royal United Hospital in Bath, we got him there, they were expecting him and moved him straight through to the Observation unit, where they took blood, temperature, heart rate and blood pressure. He was seen by a doctor, whose bedside manner was incredible, who took time to explain everything and who couldn't have done more to make sure Josh and I understood everything that was happening. We left as he was waiting to be taken down for an X-Ray.
All in all, a very quick list of everything that I love about the NHS. High quality care, delivered quickly by people who are clearly passionate about what they do.
One thing that I noticed, however, worried me quite a lot. In my Dad's cubicle was a blue poster, which said -
'How was your care today? Would you recommend this unit to a friend if they had similar care needs?'
Now, I'm sorry, but when on earth did the NHS go all TripAdvisor on us? I'm going to be candid here. I'm generally a very healthy person bar an extra few pounds, but if for some reason I was unwell, I wouldn't give a monkey's uncle what other people thought of the hospital. What I would care about was that the hospital was reasonably nearby and would take good care of me.
Now, of course, what patients think of the care they're receiving is imperative for the NHS to improve. But recommendations? Really? To me, this is the end point of the pointless competition culture within public services driven by the Tories, and by New Labour, and still being rolled out by the coalition. I don't believe that hospitals should be market driven, particularly. I think that if my leg's falling off, who is competing for my business is inconsequential. Does anybody really think that my Dad would have ever thought 'Oh, well I can't really breathe at all, but Circle Bath have flowers and a menu... what to do... what to do...'
It's not just the NHS. Michael Gove's remorseless move on the education system has the same effect. 'Which school should my child go to? Well, we'll have to see which school competes for him more!' - rubbish.
It's about time we realised that trying to enforce some kind of phony competition culture in public services that we treasure is a waste of time. Instead, how about we focus on ensuring that high quality healthcare is available relatively locally? That's what I care about, it's what I want for my Dad, and it's what I'll want for my children.
In other news, I'd give the RUH five stars for Service and Value, four for Sleep Quality and I didn't use the pool or fitness room, so couldn't possibly comment. Absolute bloody madness.