Batch Processing

In which The Author comes up with a scheme to cut NHS waiting lists

A funny thing happened to me in the surgery earlier.
I was in the waiting room for a 4.10 appointment (which didn’t get underway until nearly 4.40, but that’s another story) while people came and went. It’s a teaching practice employing two GP Registrars at the moment, neither of whom I’ve met before. The owners have their consulting rooms along the corridor. There are two smaller rooms just off the waiting room, usually allocated to the trainees. As far as I know each room has only one door, so anyone entering or leaving them has to pass through the waiting room.
Anyway, while I was waiting to be called, no fewer than three people came out of Dr Nicholls’ room at odd intervals. I hadn’t seen any of them in the waiting room. I don’t remember any of them being called. Indeed, I wasn’t sure whether the room to my immediate left was in use. I’d seen one young male doctor coming and going from the other room, but I didn’t know that Dr Nicholls was even there. It’s a mystery to me why three people should have come out of her room at different times.
Walking back up from town, a possible explanation occurred to me. While I was working in Cardiff, I often had to go to the NatWest in Queen Street to get some change. Occasionally one of the bank staff would walk up and down the line asking if ‘anyone just had a cheque to pay in’. When I had the operation on my shoulder at Llandough Hospital, Mr Graham was carrying out the same procedure on two other patients that morning. It seemed to make sense to batch operations like that – if only to minimise the risk of inadvertently getting the patients mixed up. On further consideration, maybe the NHS are applying the same technique as the banks have developed: ‘Is anyone here for just a Sub-Acromial Decompression?’
It would certainly increase the throughput at the surgery. Imagine the effect on waiting times if, every so often, the receptionist called out, ‘Has anyone here just got a cold?’ All the people with a cough or a sniffle could go into the consulting room en masse to get a lecture on the inefficacy of antibiotics against viruses, and a stern warning about time-wasting. Then the GP could see the rest of the patients without having to repeat himself several times a day. I think it’s worth considering.