I love the Daily Mail; it always has such inflammatory articles.  Today I found one that I agree with whole heartedly.

Apparently the London NHS has engaged some management consultants to tell them how to save money.  One of the solutions they have come up with is to cut appointment times between GPs and their patients from 10 minutes to 6 minutes.  A doctor can then see more patients in any given day and therefore be more productive and cheaper.  Ingenious.

There are a number of flaws in the logic which the article goes on to discuss (see the link).  Essentially it boils down to this:

The GP’s fundamental purpose (raison d’etre, call it what you like) is to “resolve the patient’s problem”.

Targeting doctors to complete a consultation in 6 minutes will change this to “finishing the consultation in 6 minutes”. (Particularly if they are beaten up if they don’t manage it, which no doubt they will be).

The doctors will achieve 6 minutes by a number of methods:

–   Asking the patient to come back later for another consultation.
–   Sending the patient off with some aspirin.
–   Referring the patient to a specialist at a hospital unnecessarily.

And no doubt a host of other means that I haven’t thought of.

Unfortunately non of these actually solve the patients problem.  He will either go back to see the doctor again or in extreme cases die.  Neither of these are cheap.  The 6 minute target will cost money not cut it.

It doesn’t really matter if they are seeing patients at a clinic, handling customer queries in a call centre or working a check out; targeting employees on handle time doesn’t work.

A far better solution would be to understand the process that the doctor goes through and fixing that.  If he spends 2 of his precious 6 minutes waiting for his assistant to bring the right file, fix the system for bringing files.  If he spends 1 minute looking for the right text book, find a way of indexing his text books.

On a more positive note, the management consultants responsible probably live in London.  Maybe they will need to see their doctor.


Image by erikjgreene

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