Don’t let wool be pulled over your eyes

…or maybe not.

Our Trust decided it was going to have another round of back-office cuts to try and meet its deficit, so it set off by telling all the over-65 staff that they were to have their contracts terminated (there was a bit of a rush with this, as the law was to be changed to forbid this, to be enacted some 6 months later). We lost a senior orthopaedic surgeon, some of whose patients were so angry they followed him into the private sector, but we also lost two of our valued and hard-working clinic receptionists, who had spent the last 15 years or so manning the desk for the rheumatology and orthopaedic clinics.

I was sad at the manner of their exit, but returned the following week to discover that the reception desk was empty, and that my patients (many quite disabled) had to walk 60 yards round to main outpatients, queue for ages and then return to the rheumatology waiting area. It transpired that the reception staff had been cut by four. Two desks had been abandoned, and the remaining staff were tearing their hair out trying to cope with the large numbers of patients, who at peak times would be queueing almost 50 yards down the main hospital corridor.

I complained to our Medical Director who, Pilate-like, washed his hands of the matter. Well – I suppose the hand-washing set a good example on the C.Diff. front. After several other complaints directed at those to whom he had directed me I finally got an answer – which was that the restructuring had only lost one full-time equivalent post, and implying that the reception manager was falling down on the job. Having seen her, in tears, trying to cope a week before, I was not impressed so summoned her to ask if the figures were true.

She told me they were. However, they included two receptionists based at the cottage hospital, and one member of the pre-admission team, who could hardly be classed as main hospital receptionists either because they worked somewhere else or because they did another job entirely. None of them had previously been in the reception staff budget.

It got worse. My secretary was suddenly phoned by an anxious senior manager, telling her that she now had to collect a huge pile of outpatient outcome forms (the ones in colour), book the follow-up appointments and code the details. Otherwise, she was told, the hospital would lose oodles of money because it couldn’t claim for the work done. Guess who normally did this work. The receptionists they had just disposed of.

It is very sad when managers not only try to delude others, but appear to delude themselves. If you are faced with an improbable scenario, or offered some rumour, check it out and get the facts. Preferably in print. Then you can screw the bastards back.

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