Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Wednesday, 28 December 2022

In which I mysteriously appear out of nowhere

It seems that we are, at last, to have all of our medical data collected in one place with the expansion of a new system to cover all NHS regions, meaning that -  at least until the next solar flare event/cyber hack/system failure - there is the hope that fewer pieces of important information will slip through the gaps.

For example, when one of the venerable ladies of Clan Macheath was recently bitten by her cat (little Sammy [or ‘Spawn of Satan’ to the rest of us] was decidedly miffed at having spent a week in the cattery), she phoned the surgery to check that her tetanus boosters were up to date. 

After trying several times to fob her off - “We don’t deal with cat bites in the surgery; you have to go to A&E” - the receptionist grudgingly agreed to look. “You haven’t had one,” she reported back,”There’s nothing in the file”, which is odd, given that Granny has travelled extensively and visited the same surgery many times for travel vaccinations, including tetanus. The record of these jabs seems to have disappeared into the ether, possibly forever. 

What is more disturbing is that my origins seem to have vanished in the same way. During a discussion with her GP, my mother discovered that her records said that she had never had children, despite our having been registered at the same surgery from early childhood. As the relevant section of her file was completely blank, the doctors had wrongly assumed that we were adopted and - with potentially dangerous consequences - made clinical decisions based on that assumption.

Now, it’s true that I made my entrance rather unexpectedly in the wild, as it were, and bypassed all the usual hospital formalities, but that’s not exactly unheard of and I suppose that someone must have made a note of the fact somewhere. A few decades on, however, as far as the NHS is concerned, I might as well have been found under a gooseberry bush.

It is to be hoped that this new record system, unlike its myriad mutually incompatible predecessors in the public sector, manages to coordinate information into a coherent - and accurate - whole. Unfortunately, I know from early temping experience that data input and filing, being neither well-paid nor prestigious, doesn’t always attract the most conscientious, competent or careful of workers. 

If it is set up and maintained efficiently, the new system could help to prevent some, at least, of the administrative mishaps I listed in ‘10 Ways the NHS is Killing People’. However, as long as information continues to be lost and the system equates absence of evidence with evidence of absence, mistakes will inevitably be made.

Perhaps this is the kind of thing that will be tackled by Midlands NHS trust’s £115k ‘Director of Lived Experience’, but I’m not holding out much hope.


  1. ’ Perhaps this is the kind of thing that will be tackled by…’

    LOL! No. By the staff that they will soon be demanding, perhaps. But not by them.

  2. As long as those staff aren’t already occupied processing the soon-to-be compulsory reports filed by any panel who appointed a white person when ethnic minority candidates were available
    The NHS is starting to look more and more like a self-propelling mechanism in which the vast majority of staff are principally employed to generate work for each other.

  3. The NHS could be on the edge of an IT precipice. A slick national system could destroy all jobs which currently depend on patching up systems which don't work as they should.

    1. Worrying to think there’s a vested interest in continued IT problems - to say nothing of the additional man- (or, more usually, woman-) hours spent on extra admin as a result.


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