I like to categorise my moaning: idle and passing complains – indicative of the English; and worthy resentments. I should probably explain what I mean by this distinction. Idle British complaints are, in my opinion, what make us English. We are mildly unhappy with most things. This needn’t be anything fundamental, it is more likely to be ‘traffic jams’, a meeting being too long or dull, people being too enthusiastic – and I am talking mostly here about Canadians. Airline prices being too high – Fly Ryanair? “God no – I would never travel in such squalor”… We have a glass half empty attitude! I would also like to group the weather into this category, and neighbouring hedges: no hedge = ugly view into next door’s garden. High hedge = light theft and an infringement of our basic human rights. This category is encompassed by a slight miserableness that pervades our everyday interaction

On the other hand there are grievances that are sincere and would be felt by all nations! At this stage I would like to introduce the NHS. Now dear readers, you may be thinking I have miss-categorised this, but I can assure you I have not. Before slating the NHS, I wish to stress that if you do have something really wrong with you, you will be seen very quickly and cared for very well (in my experience). Perhaps this is enough in itself. However, my recent NHS marathon has rather tarnished them in my books. I have been having a niggling pain in my back (just slightly out of place). This I think was a direct consequence of picking up bags of cement instead of one, because a bloke in the builder’s yard asked “d’ya think yer can ‘anle them bags mate”… I carried them two at a time!

From previous experience with the Health System, I know that you cannot simply ask to be sent to a specialist, you need to go through the right channels. Thus a timely trip to my Local GP. But I have just moved house. (The knowing smiles come, at this stage, from those who have moved house thus know the ‘change of doctor’ process, or even more so students who get ill when they go home!) The short explanation: you cannot be referred by a doctor unless you are registered with the surgery, you can only be registered at one surgery and you cannot be registered without your notes being transferred. Now with a population of just over 63 million, most of whom, I conjecture, are on the NHS, there will be the mother of all systems housing this data, and that it can be smoothly be accessed from any place – after all – it is quite important if I knock myself out in Liverpool that they don’t have to call up Bristol for my notes to find out whether I am allergic to morphene! Surely something of the sort must be in place. However, it still takes a working week to get my notes!

I see the doctor, he refers me for a chest and back x-ray and tells me I can simply have a walk-in appointment. So the first available day I do so! After waiting for 30 minutes at the reception for a man who was having some sort of confusion as to where he lives (therein I daresay lies a story involving another woman or tax fraud), I am greeted by the most miserable person who has ever blessed the world. She takes a look at my referral and gleefully declares that they can only take walk-ins for chest x-rays. I ask if the chest x-ray will be done in a different department, different room, or even different appointment to the back x-ray? NO… I innocently ask why I cannot just have an appointment. NO – clearly she is feeling more and powerful the more I question. The logic of this beaurocratic decision evades me, but I remain calm and resolute not to give her more satisfaction… I book an appointment for the following week. Upon returning to my car I throw my bag into the passenger seat, but the mis-directed throw catches my half-full coffee, sending the milky mix all over the drivers seat. It was a good thing that there were no children in the vicinity to hear the profanities that cascaded from my mouth. I wish to stress I hold the NHS directly responsible for this mishap (according to chaos theory).

I return at my assigned time a week later. The queue at the reception desk rivals that outside the final day at Wimbledon! My happy receptionist friend is the only person manning the desk amain , but since Carma is a beautiful mistress, she is having to deal with a walking corpse who was as deaf as a bat and certainly wasn’t speaking the same English I, or anyone I have every met, speaks. I make my way through the queue – now it is 40 minutes past my appointment time! She asks why I am late… I believe that my look spoke magnitudes as my pupils dilated – she could probably smell the adrenalyne – she did not wait for an audible explanation. My lateness however meant I had missed my slot. She gets her own back “ I am afraid sir (said with scorn and sarcasm) you will have to wait in‘As if I were a walk in’!!!! In answer to your question and mine: referrals internal to the hospital are allowed to be walk-ins, irrespective of where the x-ray is for. Good thing there was no coffee in sight for me to spill!

When I arrive i the radiology department were at least 10 people dressed as nurses doing sweet Felicity Arkwright! Perhaps one of them might have diversified their role and helped man the desks? Of course I was eventually seen. After my x-ray I ask “will you know whats wrong with my back straight away?” The nurse replies “yes”… pauses, allowing for the comic moment “but I can’t tell you – your Doctor will have the results for you in five days”. A Working Week!

Whats my point? My point is that the bureaucracy of the NHS is so convoluted that nobody understands it. It is so understaffed in some areas that people cannot be processed fast enough to see those idle behind the scenes. The NHS is a brilliant concept. But so is Communism. And like Communism, it will only work for a time. At this rate, it will collapse, and the ramifications will be severe: just consider America. Furthermore, my car smells a mixture of off-milk and coffee… If thats what I was after, I could have been seen at Starbucks, difference being that they are VERY efficient with their money and I would not have had to wait five days to be seen.