I’ve spent the past 24 hours nursing bad toothaches and coming to terms with the fact that the dictum ‘better means worse’ is, unfortunately, true. I’m referring to the increasing bureaucracy which permeates much modern life and whose function is ostensibly to ‘facilitate’ but, in fact does anything but. (Incidentally, I can claim to be the author of the above dictum, which I came up with after I read another - ‘more means less’ - in the Daily Telegraph. Here’s another, which I also feel sums up aspects of aspects of the 21st century: ‘bullshit is the new bollocks’).
I had my tooth looked at a week ago by my very attractive 27-year-old Spanish NHS dentist (and, Maria, if you are reading this, I can tell you I wish to God I were 30 years younger). In fact, I don’t think it is the same tooth which is giving my gyp, but
Anyhow, my wife told me that my niece had been taken to Bodmin Hospital which has an emergency dental service, so at 8.30 this morning I rang the hospital and asked to be put through to the service. I was told I had to ring my dentist. But they are not open on a Saturday morning, I told them, which I why I am ringing you.
Do you have the emergency dentist at the hospital? Yes, the woman said. Well, can’t you put me through? No, she said, you must ring your dentist. But all I get is a message telling me to ring back on Monday morning, so would you please put me through.
At this point, the woman claimed she was physically unable to do so, though I flatly refuse to believe that a part of the hospital is telephonically completely isolated from the rest of it. She told me to ring the NHS dental helpline. I did this and was given the number of the emergency dental service at Bodmin. I rang it, and was told by another woman to ‘ring your dentist’.
I told her I had and that the surgery was shut. Well, take paracetamol and ibrufen, she said. Can’t I see someone, I asked. We only see emergencies, she replied, people with an abscess and chronic pain. Chronic pain? That’s me, I told her. Well, take ibrufen. But can’t I see someone. It’s not protocol, she replied. (Great word ‘protocol’, it makes whatever is being talked about sound far, far more important.) Have you got anyone coming in now, I asked. Yes, she said (and I thought she sounded rather triumphant - that most certainly put persistent old me in my place.)
Well, can I ring back later? And she agreed, I thought pretty reluctantly, so the arrangement is that I am due to ring at 12 to see whether they can fit me in, although the unspoken threat - quite obvious from the tone of her voice - was that the chances were that I would once again be sent off with a flea in my ear for even daring to suggest I should receive treatment. Fuckwits.
I agree that my difficulties with NHS bureaucracies is as nothing compared to what several million Somalis are currently having to put up with in Northern Kenya and what millions of Indians have to put up with daily year in, year out in India, but then this is my blog not theirs and I am a lily-livered Westerner for whom ‘tragedy’ is if the car battery’s flat on a nippy winter’s morning.