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The Zebra Syndrome clinic runs three times a year and is the only one of its kind for miles around.
It has been developed by a highly specialised team of clinicians, offering patients and families a holistic service aimed at meeting all their needs in one place.
It is a flagship for best practice in ZS, and – despite benefiting from funds raised by Zebra Support UK – it’s extremely expensive to run.
The first time I went along, I could see why. Besides registrars like me, the clinic is a whole-day commitment for one professor, two consultants, a nurse practitioner, three highly specialised physiotherapists, a physiologist and two healthcare assistants.
It’s a busy day for the patients, too: each would have two hours of consultations and assessments over the course of the day.
Only there weren’t any. The staff hung around for a while, and then drifted off. I was left on guard in the empty clinic, to alert them if anyone did show up. At about 11am, one solitary patient appeared. Otherwise, I spent the day half-heartedly getting on with an audit in an abandoned consulting room.
It turned out the appointment letters had never been sent out owing to an administrative oversight.
The secretarial team was well-known to be overworked, poorly led and demoralised. This wasn’t the first such slip; we had recently had to reschedule a whole series of routine appointments, all booked to take place at 1am on a Sunday morning.
Our phantom clinic will have cost, at the most conservative estimate, several thousand pounds. Appointments had to be rebooked, lengthening already-stretched waiting lists. Complex patients were left without care for months longer than was necessary.
It wasn’t a ‘serious incident’, however, and didn’t generate any negative publicity, so interest from the hospital’s middle and senior managers was minimal.
The secretaries, many of whom were regularly working unpaid overtime to keep up with the piles of chaotic paperwork accumulating around them, were not to blame.
The fact that there were manifestly too few of them, and experienced admin staff who left were being replaced with barely literate school leavers, was.
There has been a lot of pressure on the health service to cut down admin costs during the past few years. Sadly, this has frequently meant sacking, or devaluing, hard-working medical secretaries and ward clerks, while the operational lead for quality assurance and the assistant head of eLearning continue to do just fine.
Whole clinics vanishing into a void of administrative incompetence because we can’t get our act together to recruit, retain and pay an adequate secretarial team reminds me of the proverb of the ship that was lost for a ha’porth of tar – possibly while senior management was busy rearranging the deckchairs.
By the Secret Doctor. Read the blog and follow @TheSecretDr on Twitter and on Facebook
I uh didn't really understand this piece at all. however I'm not a doctor so...
To the 'anonymous' person below, I understood this piece and I am not a doctor either. I have been blamed in my records to failing to turn up to appoinmets, however I had not been informed that of those appointments. I had to wait months for biopsy results, admin staff told me there was a delay at the lab. There wasn' t, its just that my Health Board is badly managed by overpaid senior management that cares more about covering up failures instead of fixing them, such as under-reporting still births and infant deaths, and manipulating a patient's family into not having a post mortem immediately after the family watched the patient die in fear and pain, having been given an overdose.
Agree totally ...but cuts have also affected carers not managing to come, family members not not bring able to afford day off/ childcare, transport intiatives being shut down ....and don't get me started on admin staff ...it was one of the most ridiculous inefficient money saving projects to stop replacing admin staff to save money ...making the ones who remained to take over others workload plus increasing demand.
In addition to that in some departments, almost criminal mismanagement leads to them throwing money at employing new managers to manage "resilience/ performance/sustainability" rather than employing more admin staff and giving them particular job ...which would improve not only morale , but patient flow efficiency as well as the data on which could be used to improve services ....grrr ...will leap of soap box now ...many thanks Secret Doctor ...so sad that this happened...glad you got audit done