Dr Chris Mimnagh: Why are we using systems that provide a poorer service?

I am a hypocrite, prepared to fight injustice in others, but upholding a failing regime in delivering a less good service.

Let me explain. Early one morning last week I was stood in a local shop next to a very famous author. He wanted to buy an avocado. Yesterday the avocado had been reduced, but today, according to the operative, it was no longer fit for consumption by humans.

‘The system won't let me sell it,’ was her only excuse.

Incensed by the idea that the system could overrule intelligent humanity, I instead applied knowledge.

‘I’m pretty sure there's never been a reported case of food poisoning from a day past-sell-by-date avocado,’ I said confidently.

Even engaging a manager didn't help. ‘Because we're an ethical company we send our food waste for recycling,’ was the response.

The insanity of the situation was beyond belief.

Sadly 24 hours later I'm sat in surgery referring a patient to outpatients. The last time I'd referred them we'd used Choose and Book, but now the CCG has moved to a referral management system.

‘I’m sorry,’ I said, ‘the system won't let me do it.’

Instead I have to write off so some faceless clinician who can second guess my decision and eventually contact the patient with an appointment, which may or may not work for them.

I don't even know if I'm a high or low referrer, our CCG probably has the data but doesn't share it.

On reflection, I feel really dirty. I know that Choose and Book is still there, that I certainly could just click on and give the patient an appointment. I know that from their perspective it's quicker, kinder and better customer service.

Instead I give the most pathetic of excuses ‘the system won't let me do it’ and hope that nobody calls me out on my cowardice.

  • Dr Chris Mimnagh is a GP in Liverpool and head of clinical innovation liaison and deployment at The Innovation Agency, the academic health science network for the north-west coast.

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