Staff of the NHS logistics service, in Maidstone, have once again taken industrial action, in pursuit of their dispute over DHL, taking over as distributor of medical suppliers, and whilst I have some sympathy I would imagine DHL are more competent distributor's than the NHS and as it's our money being spent, it should be used wisely.
The NHS is seen by many, not surprisingly as something more than a business, let's face it when you've got chest pains, blood leaking or maybe a bone bent in the wrong direction, we are pretty thankful of the front line professionals who alleviate our suffering.
So not surprisingly, we tend to get a little more emotional about the health service, than say our shops although I get a little uneasy on Sundays when I know Tesco's has just closed.
Perhaps the biggest difference between the health service and the retail sector, is choice, if I require medical treatment, my first port of call would be the local surgery, over which I have no real choice being an NHS patient (sometimes I get lucky and they talk to me as a tax paying contributor to the NHS), anyway I won't dwell on the excellent service and customer skills of my own doctors because I don't want to have to find a new one.
Choice in other spheres such as shopping is easy, although complex, price matters, quality matters, location and often in my case competence and attitude of staff, for instance I find Marks and Spencer, have good quality stuff if overpriced and bland, but seemingly aloof staff despite that highly excitable voice-over woman on telly, so I choose Matalan or Tesco's.
As a consumer I find the NHS has improved vastly, in the way many departments treat their patients, generally staff are courteous and respectful , which is a contrast to the distant and offhand approach of the past and that's how it should be.
Front line service, to the largest extent has fallen in line with our aspirations and the NHS presents an efficient user friendly service to most, but behind the clinics is the gray mind of the bureaucrat and in some cases of the voluntary worker. About three years ago, I had the temerity, to inquire why had to wait three months, for a very simple procedure, my telephone call was eventually answered by a volunteer, and I assume that Margate Hospital may well still use volunteers instead of staff to answer patients' questions.
Now where is this leading us, well we now have businesslike clinics, but I think the volunteers still help run the health service and this helps give the perception of the NHS as a charity institution and not the industry it actually is. Of course our hospitals are managed ultimately by local boards presumably in a democratic fashion although maybe it's one of those things, where people with the right contacts, get asked to do their bit in that patronising way, so loved by government.
My personal vision for the health service, would be to sack anyone who wore a suit or tie without also having a stethoscope about their person, insist on contractors paying ancillary staff a living wage, and maybe contract out non-medical administrative services to private business.