The Source of Culture

Whenever I enagage with a new service, I can’t help but analyse how they deal with me. Having run a business for 18 years I find myself wondering what culture lies behind my customer experience.

Yesterday (Monday) I had to renew a prescription (I suffer from gout and, perhaps unsurprisingly, have had an attack just after the Christmas break. I am undertaking a review to see if I can figure out what might have brought it on…).

I called my local medical practice. I was told by the receptionist, somewhat grumpily, that this is not how they renew prescriptions any more. Procedures changed some time ago. I have to phone the pharmacist and they will fax a request. The surgery and the chemist shop are 50 yards from each other.

“Fax?” I said. “Have I travelled back in time to 1985?” I said.

No I didn’t. One doesn’t speak to a GP receptionists in that way who one day you may have to ask for an urgent appointment, a fact I suspect she is very much aware of.

I then called the pharmacist who told me I’d missed the cut off for the day and the pills would be ready by Friday. “But,” I said (I actually did this time), “I’m running out of pills and I have a gout attack at the moment.” After a pause, the pharmacist said “You might call us on Thursday to see if they are ready.”

So what sort of customer experience do I receive from my local medical centre?

  1. I was basically told off by a member of staff for not knowing that they had changed their internal procedures

  2. When I go to pick up the prescription from the surgery I will have to walk, with my gouty foot, in great pain, some distance from the nearest parking spaces. There are spaces much closer but I can’t use them, because they are reserved for the staff (the GPs)

  3. I was given a solution which had no regard to the actual nature of the problem, which was of no interest to them (my current supply runs out on Wednesday)

  4. The entire service is designed to make things easier for them, not me. They have to give me the pills, but I suspect they’d rather not

Now, I love the NHS. I have many friends and family employed by the NHS (my wife has been a cancer nurse for 20+ years) and I know many doctors who are kind and thoughtful and I have nothing but respect for the hard work medical training entails.

But I’ve also met a fair number of doctors who have a little (or a lot) of that ‘God complex’, the impression that they are the important ones in this consultation, not you. Even my doctor friends will lapse into stories about colleagues like this with just minimal prodding.

I guess the culture that spawned my experience, and one of the sources of that culture, is fairly easy to identify.

All of which leads me to question – what is the culture in our profession? And what is the source? I’d love to hear your views.