Thursday, April 25, 2024
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Sorry, sir, your NHS has failed its MoT


THE National Health Service is in the spotlight right now. But for all its sterling work on the coronavirus front, it remains a bureaucratic monolith that can drive its ‘customers’ to distraction. 

So let’s stay with the motoring metaphor and ask what it would be like if getting your car repaired was controlled by the NGS, the National Garage Service. We’ll make a phone call and find out …

‘Hello, North West Swindon Garage. How can we help you?’

 ‘Good afternoon, I’d like to make an appointment to get my brakes checked, please.’

‘You should have called us at 8:30 this morning.’

– ‘I tried, but all I got was the engaged tone.’

‘Well, the first slot I have available is on Tuesday the 25th at 2:40pm.’

– ‘But that’s two and half weeks away. I need my car to get to work.’

‘Sorry, but we’re very busy. Do you want that appointment or not?’

– ‘OK, see you then.’

[Seventeen days later]

‘Yes, your brakes definitely need some work – probably new discs and a fluid top-up.’

– ‘Can you do that here?’

‘No, you’ll have to go to Swindon Central Garage to see a brake specialist.’

– ‘Can I book that now?’

‘Not exactly, you have to contact the local MCG, they deal with all referrals now.’

– ‘What’s the MCG?’

‘The Mechanical Commissioning Group. They control the budget for all car repairs carried out in our area. I’ll give you their phone number and a repair reference number.’

[Whirr of computer printer, which produces two sheets of info about the MCG. Two days pass by.]

  ‘Thank God somebody has finally answered the phone.’

‘Sorry if you’ve been inconvenienced, we’re short-staffed. Can you give me your reference number, please? Thank you. Oh, I don’t have that number on my files. It probably hasn’t arrived yet from your local garage. Please call back next week.’

[Next week]

‘Thank you for calling the MCG, I can get you an appointment for brake repairs in Swindon, Reading, Newbury, Oxford or Gloucester.’

– ‘Why would I want to drive a car with defective brakes to Oxford or Reading?’

‘It’s part of the MCG’s role to offer a choice of garages to the customer.’

  ‘Well, Swindon then.’

‘Your appointment will be on (computer voice takes over) Friday the 17th at 10am.’

[Friday 17th]

‘We’ve replaced all the brake discs and the hydraulic fluid. That’ll be £220.’

– ‘I thought the National Garage Service was free at the point of delivery!’

‘You’ve been watching those political party things, haven’t you? By the way, when we took your car out for a drive to check the brakes, we noticed there was a lot of play in the steering. You ought to get that looked at.’

  ‘Couldn’t you have done that here today?’

‘No, this is the Brake Department, you need to visit Steering and Suspension.’

–  ‘So can you refer me to the right department?’

‘No. You have to go back to your local garage and see the general mechanic there to get an appointment.’

–  ‘I see.’

‘Oh, and don’t forget to join in the Thursday night applause for the brave men and women on the front line of car repairs.’

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Alan Potts
Alan Potts
Retired IT consultant, currently tipster, author and racehorse owner.

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