A day in the life of a part time NHS worker
Nearly half of NHS staff feel so overstretched they fear they cannot do their jobs properly, a survey shows.
The Healthcare Commission poll of 160,000 workers across England also showed many did not feel valued.
If one wishes to write for a living, one also has to do something to pay the bills. I did consider taking to the streets but the fear of scandal once I became famous haunted me, so I opted for the next best thing. The NHS. You get a good pension and everyone admires you for some inane reason. I have worked my way through several NHS jobs; I have been receptionist, administrator, dog’s body, health care assistant and many others.
I am one of the chosen people. Oh yes, I am one of those special people. Working for the NHS entitles me to feel overstretched that I fear I cannot do my job properly. I am one of those people who defiantly deserve an MBE or some award at least if only for managing to stuff my face full of the biscuits and cakes handed over by patients at Christmas. Of course these should last a full year, but in a job as stressful as this they are gone by Easter.
No one fully realises the stress in working for the NHS and how undervalued one can feel. While the rest of you are trying to avoid swine flu, I face it head on every day.
A day in the life of an NHS worker is not pleasant to read. If you have the stomach for it, read on.
Opened up the clinic today. All dark and gloomy inside, but it will liven up soon with the regulars. Switch on the computers, which take all of thirty minutes to start. Pop two painkillers, in case. Always best to be prepared I find. Check which Doctor is on call, can’t work it out, phone practice manager who manages to make me feel two inches small but she is good at that anyway. Pop two more painkillers, different ones this time, the ones you can mix. I work for the NHS so I know which you can mix. Check the clock and debate whether I have time to run to the loo before the phones start ringing. I dive in and just sit down and yes the phone rings and I know it is bound to be an emergency. I pull everything up rapidly and answer it. Once I came out of the loo with my skirt tucked in my knickers, not a pretty sight. I see the queue of patients outside. Oh yes, they queue nice and early. A bit like Sainsburys on Christmas Eve except not as merry.
‘Have you opened the door?’ asks practice manager. Obviously I haven’t, else they would not be shivering outside. But I hate to mention that she states the bloody obvious.
I answer the phone.
‘Tree elms surgery’ well, obviously it isn’t really called that is it? But I had to think of something. I do want to keep my job in the NHS believe it or not.
‘Is that the surgery?’
Didn’t I just say so, idiot.
I am getting edgy now. People are peering at me through the window. I am two minutes late opening up.
‘Oh I am sorry to phone so early, are you doing the flu jab this year?’
‘Is that the normal flu?’
No, it’s the abnormal flu.
‘Yes, shall I book you in?’
‘Well I was wondering…’ When they start wondering I start to switch off. I put her on hold and unlock the doors.
I come back to the phone and wonder why the queue isn’t descending upon me.
‘Can I have my blood test at the same time?’
‘Not really, it is a flu clinic so the nurse will be injecting one patient after the other.’
I have not unlocked the bloody door. I turned on the automatic switch but did not unlock it. I dive out and let them in apologising profusely.
‘I will call back’ says my phone caller.
Great! I begin checking in the patients. This is the fun part of the morning.
‘ Can I see the ‘Nurse please?’
‘Is it for bloods?’ I ask sounding like Dracula’s assistant.
‘Doctor Roberts please’
‘He has quite a long waiting list are you happy to wait?’
How long is a piece of string? All patients expect you to be psychic.
‘I have this pain in my chest but I don’t want to bother the Doctor if it’s nothing’
‘I can book you in to see a doctor this morning’
‘It probably isn’t anything is it?’
‘I’m not a clinician, I can’t really advise. If you are concerned you should see a Doctor.’
Two patients with potential swine flu phone, one is sitting outside in her car with her whole family. They are visiting from Sydney and want to see a Doctor.
It is decided they will be seen. I am elected to fetch them in. I search for a mask, can’t find one, give up and fetch them totally exposed. I try not to get too close to them and quickly close the door of the treatment room. Ten minutes later one of the Gps looking like an astronaut goes to see them. He comes back, confirms swine flu and asks me to take them their invoice.
‘Private patients have to pay’ he informs me.
I gingerly enter the treatment form with the invoice and a chocolate biscuit hidden in my hand, well someone has to eat them. They go to give me a credit card.
‘We only accept Cheques or cash’ I inform them. I wait for over five minutes while they raid purses and pockets to raise the money. Meanwhile, I try holding my breath.
Back to reception where they all sit in the waiting room chatting to each other or reading old copies of country life magazine. I hear Dolly come in before I see her, hearing aid whistling a jolly tune for all to hear. A new receptionist asks loudly,
‘Where’s that music coming from? Can you hear it?’
District nurse phones, she can’t get into Mrs Tulley’s house, would I be a darling and phone her.
NO! Do I have to??
I turn up Terry Wogan to glares of hatred and phone Mrs Tully.
‘The district nurse is outside could you let her in?’ I shout
‘What’s that about my purse?’
‘No, district nurse, can you let her in’ I scream
‘I have my purse, who are you anyway?’
I hang up and turn the music down.
I am getting stressed.
‘Excuse me could I have some water I think I am going to faint’ asks a patient.
You and me both, I think. Then, I remember the chocolate biscuits, and the minstrels and the last piece of chocolate cake. Just the thing for my stress, something to lift my blood sugar. Not so stressful, you may be thinking. Ah, but this is an organised surgery, now the previous one I worked in…
Well, lets not go there.
An hour later I take a call from ‘Manor house’ the local home for dementia patients.
‘Can you check some patients for me?’ asks the deputy manager.
‘Yes certainly which ones?’
‘Michael Lomas, can you tell me did you do a repeat script for him yesterday?’
I stare wide-eyed at the screen where the words patient deceased screams at me.
Does the deputy manager not know one of his patients died only yesterday?
‘erm’ I mumble.
‘Or maybe it was Margaret Dunn, did she have a repeat for her sleeping pills?’
‘Which one do you want me to check?’ I ask getting a trifle confused.
‘Well. Both I think’
I debate whether to remind him that one of them died and decide against it.
‘Oh, we also lost some medication for Joe Turner, we have found them now can we continue with them?’
Please God do not let Andrew put me here! Note to self, keep doing the mental exercises.
‘Let me put you through to dispensary?’ I ask passing the buck.
Then as the afternoon drifts aimlessly on there are the usual weird phone calls, which go something like this.
‘’Tree Elms surgery good afternoon’
‘Is that the Doctor’s surgery?’
I am sure I just said that, but never mind.
‘Yes can I help?’
‘Lynda, how can I help?’
‘Do I know you?’
What the hell does it matter?
‘Are you new?’
I usually end up passing this to someone they know.
‘Tree Elms surgery good afternoon’
‘Do you have an appointment with Dr Roberts this afternoon?’
‘He is not here today’
‘Oh, hold on’ calls to someone else ‘He is not there today she says, do you want to see someone else?’
The moron who can’t speak for himself, yes gentleman it is always the man who gets his wife to phone for him and henceforth we have a three way conversation.
‘Who is there today,’ she asks
I give her the names and she shouts them to him, he asks what times. I tell her the times, which she shouts at him. There is silence from us all why the twit makes a decision. I book the appointment and hang up in disgust.
As I make my way home I seriously consider my first option of life on the streets.