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Did me Outpatients visit last week.  It’d been a two month interval this time. 
Last time I was there, there were long delays as they were installing a computerised system for check-in.   This time I had to negotiate the automaton.

Gorra say, anytime I encounter the computerisation of a task like this, my first thought is that it’s there to remove a layer of administration.  It’s not done for the convenience of the “service user”,  it’s done to eliminate a “job”.  In this case, two jobs and that’s reflected in that there were two consoles for patients to check themselves in.  
(You can call me a cynic, and I do know the price of a lot of things.  I also know those things value.)

The previous system, of my experience, was that at the check-in desk there were two people coping with the patients, entering yr details into a computer and ticking you off a printout taped to the desktop.  They were brisk, efficient and helpful.  It was reassurance in a novel situation that had to be negotiated. 
The fact you were there meant that you were in deep, deep physical trouble.  The busy, considerate  efficiency created a buzz that distracted from that, the initial personal contact was a great help in coping.


I stood before the new console in a complete failure of zen oneness.  Nice big screen with nice big icons.  I tapped in the answers; Date of Birth:  Name:  > Next   
The next screen asked for my ethnicity;  White:  Other: > Next      I declined this question and hit Next, nothing happened.  I hit Next again but it refused to move to the next screen without I selected something.

I have a bunch of reasons to find an enquiry abt my race offensive.  Let’s start with the obvious one about why I’m there. 
If my ethnicity is in any way relevant to my treatment, it would be determined by a clinician using some standardised criteria.  My subjective judgement would be in no way appropriate.  So I’m being asked an offensive question for some box ticking exercise.  obv.

More offensive to me than the irrelevance of the question is the term in which it is couched.  “White” is not an ethnic group, it is a colour.  Substituting colour for race is the language of apartheid and continuing to use that language perpetuates apartheid as a way of thinking.  I can get quite Quixotic abt this.

I turned from the console and called  to the desk “ Why is it forcing me to describe my ethnicity before it’ll let me move on ??”.
A female voice called back “you don’t want to say your ethnicity ??”
“No.”
She replied in a tone that suggested the hairs had just stood up on the back of her neck   “No one’s ever said that before ....”

A male voice called out  “I’ll come and help”  and, lead nurse that day, Sancho Panza vaulted the desk to stand at my side.
Sancho and I have a good acquaintance through my visits there and have had some chats that make for a personal relationship.  Confidence flows as uncertainty ebbs. 

The automaton had been programmed to have little patience and had returned to its opening screen.  I went through it all again.  When I got to “White” or “Other”,  Sancho reached out his arm and patted me on the back.  “Hit ‘Other’” he said.  I did and it took me to a screen of classification gibberish,  he pointed to a box at the end of it that said “Don’t want to say”.    I checked it and the screen progressed to thanking me for coming and I was now on the system.

I thanked Sancho, who looked as gleeful as if I’d just made him ruler of the Queen’s navy and busied himself off to continue running his tight ship.


I found myself a seat and untied my shoes and unbuttoned my shirt to facilitate a quick strip at the weigh-in. 
20mins later I was called and, my latest stats are ....... weight 73kg’s ;  b.p. 139 / 90 ;  pulse 60bpm.   The latter two are ok under the circs.  The best that can be said of my weight is that it’s 3 kilos more than it was two months ago.  Then it had sunk to 70kg (11 stone to people who know the diff between weight and mass) and the Head Honcha was reaching for her copy of “How miracle meds can trash yr thyroid”.    

Back to the waiting area for the customary 1 ½ hr wait for an audience with the Head Honcha. 


She enquired how’d it been going and I didn’t hold back.  Time was I’d have had some cheery opening to the tale but now I’m attritioned out.  I told her I’d been off my feet for two of the last six months,  one week with my legs turned to lead and the rest in two different bouts of back pain.  Said my hunch was that the pains endured so long due to the meds as one was a repetition of a prob a few years back and that had cleared up in a week.  This time it took a month.

She was incredulous at all of it.   Sure, muscle and joint pain is a common side effect but not what I was describing.

She told me that, based on my blood tests two months ago, I’m in remission and everything is tip top, hunky dory.  ( I don’t find it the most useful interval for reviewing results.  A week, maybe.  A lot can go wrong in two months, it has done in recent world history leave alone in my personal history.)

My kidneys are functioning normally.  My blood composition is what it ought to be.  My thyroid’s fine.  Ooh look, I’ve put on a few kg’s.     I had to stop her there and tell her I credit that to the chocolate habit I’ve developed to try and put on weight.  I’m currently on 200gms/day.  I couldn’t face the HFCS alternatives.
I’m still eating like a horse.

I asked her if she had any idea why I was in so much discomfort from the legs down and the miscellaneous pains that afflict me all over ??   Why, if my metabolism is now so great, have I so little energy ??
I got the familiar, metaphorical shrug of the shoulders.  Anything outside the paradigm of the programme is not accountable.

And that was it,  come back in three months.   And don’t stop taking the tablets !!   (as if :rolleyes:)



( For NHS advice adherents, my BMI is 22.3 apparently robustly normal.  In reality, stand me next to a rake and it’d look fat !!)



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