Monday 16 November 2009

Gotta Love Joined-Up Government

As many will know, five weeks ago today, back on October 12th I had an episode of impactful tarmac interaction - as in I came off my bike.

Of course, to say 'came off my bike' does not illuminate the context of the event, and lends itself to speculation of incompetent riding resulting in a self-inflicted tumble, or perhaps the other extreme of having been mowed down by an errant eighteen-wheeler.

In the interest of illustration, I shall provide that required context in the form of... telling you what happened.

I was pootling along Long Lane in Tilehurst, Reading (UK), which is near where I live. As I was approaching the junction with Orchard Close, I saw three boys (I'd say between 8-10 years old I think) on bicycles waiting on the pavement to cross the road. The first of them kicked off and was safely to the other side long before I was anywhere close. The second made a motion to go, but looked and saw me, and stopped. I made eye-contact to make sure he'd seen me, and he met my eyes. Confident he was staying put, I continued.

And then, just at the moment when a crash would have been unavoidable, he pulled away and into the road. His front wheel went into the forward part of mine, spinning it so that it was perpendicular to the rest of the bike - which naturally continued its forward momentum, up and over the handlebars, taking me with it.

I landed on the road on the heels of my hands and took a good knock to my left elbow before the bike landed on me and mangled me a bit more. The other guy was fine, in case you're wondering. I sat by the side of the road for a few minutes while I tried to recover my breath, then I tottered off in the direction of home.

Long story short, after a few hours of the pain not getting any better and a bit of a fainting episode, I was taken to the local hospital's Accident & Emergency department where I had a few X-rays and was dismissed a few hours later.

The next day I received a call from the consultant radiologist, who said that actually there might be some damage (a microfracture in the elbow) that would not have shown up in the early X-rays, and that I should make an appointment to come back after a few weeks if things had not improved. Four weeks later, (on my birthday no less) I was back at A&E to see why my wrists were still so painful. I could not turn keys, unscrew bottles, pick up Elliot etc. without massive pain, so I hoped to get something sorted out.

I was kitted out with splints for both wrists, in case of a possible scaphoid fracture and told to come back in two weeks for a follow up.

This is where we return to the title of this post.

I live on the other side of town from the hospital, and getting to it entails a journey through some of the busiest roads in Reading. Knowing how badly congested these routes can be, I requested a late-morning apppointment so that the traffic would be light.

I was then informed that this would not be possible. Not because there were no appointments to be had, but because some jobsworth at the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust has decreed that patients must be booked into the first available appointment on the required day, so that a contiguous block of appointments is constructed. I was therefore landed with a 9:05am slot, meaning that I would have no choice other than to drive through the very peak of the rush-hour traffic. No amount of explaining that this was ludicrous would persuade the old boot behind the desk to change the time.

And so, this morning, I set out from home at 8:15am in order to have a hope of reaching the hospital in time for the appointment. Sure enough, in short order I was sitting in gridlocked traffic going nowhere fast and a journey that should have taken fifteen minutes took over an hour. I jostled for space with rushing commuters, feeling completely out of place, as I make a point to never venture out onto the roads at that time of the morning, specifically to avoid the crush.

I finally signed in to A&E at 9:25am, twenty minutes late for my appointment. Of course, that made no difference to the time I was seen, as I have never been seen at the RBH fewer than forty-five minutes after my designated appointment time.

So let's look at the facts and figures:

Had I left at 10am for a 10:15am appointment, I would have spent only fifteen minutes in the car and would have occupied largely empty roads, arriving on time to my appointment.

On the other hand, having to cross town for a 9:05am appointment, I had to spend over an hour in the car, most of which time was spent at a stand still. My presence there contributed at least 4x the emmisions it would have done had I left at 10am, and that's before we factor in the additional emmissions from the other drivers around me who were slightly delayed by the fact that they had to share the road with my car too. I arrived late at A&E, potentially delaying the treatment of other patients and breaking their scheduling.

So that was a long blog post to simply get across the fact that I do not appreciate being forced to venture out into peak-time traffic because some government-paid fool doesn't know how to work a scheduler, while at the same time being directed from other wings of the government to avoid driving in rush-hour traffic unless absolutely unavoidable.

Who would have thought it would be a wing of the government that would make it unavoidable themselves. Pathetic.


I forgot to mention the reason that I had to go back to A&E at all.

On my first trip back to the hospital, I asked if I could be assessed by my local GP for the next appointment. I was told that this would not be possible. Upon inquiring as to why, I was told that my GP would not have access to the X-rays that had been taken. To me, this makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, as the doctor to whom I was talking at the time was looking at my X-rays in digital form on her computer. Has the NHS not got a network so that this kind of data can be shared? I hear there's this great invention that might just be of use to them... it's called the interweb, or something like that...