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Dis Harmoni

2013-12-14 16.06.01

If you need a GP out of hours, you might end up on the receiving end of services from Harmoni.

Harmoni run the weekend GP service in my area. When I needed them, a few weeks back, I was initially massively impressed. My call to the local GP practice was routed smoothly through to NHS Direct; and they managed to find me an appointment in less than two hours time.

With Harmoni – based within a local NHS hospital. Great! I got there at 11am but was asked straight away if I could possibly come back later, as things were badly overrunning. Erm, ok, said my pale and shaking face. 2? 3? -Whatever works for you, said the weary receptionist. I settled for 3.

Whatever had been going wrong with the booking and queueing system had clearly gone very wrong by the time I arrived back at 2.50. People everywhere – crying kids, coughing old people, someone throwing up in a washing up bowl. Lovely.

At 4, after a few nudges to the effect that a) I was pretty damn fecking ill and b) I was actually an 11am appointment, I got my turn.

All went normally until the GP started to write out the prescription. There it was, up on the screen, on the fancy patient management system thing. And there he was, dutifully copying down every detail on to the green pad on his knee. I asked about the printer. -Ah. It’s broken. I keep reporting it, but they won’t get me a new one.

And this laptop situation? I pointed at the thing you can see in the picture. The one with the A4 paper stuck to the screen, with instructions on how to bodge it together with an external monitor. He just shook his head, sadly. Can I take a picture? Sure, he said – actually quite pleased by the idea. We had a little chat about how everything took longer because he had to copy out prescriptions by hand when the system was supposed to print them.

Printers. £50. Laptops. Not a huge amount more. People. Sitting there all day, getting sicker and sicker.

I did some sums. They didn’t come out very well for Harmoni.

If you hear of them bidding for services in your area, remember this picture. Somebody, somewhere, thinks this is an acceptable level of service, and you’re paying for it.

UPDATE 17 March: A letter from Harmoni, addressing my “complaint” – for apparently this blog post constitutes one… They’re going to bollock the receptionist for what actually seemed like a rather humane move, allowing me to shiver in the comfort of my own home for my hours of waiting. But they are replacing the laptop and printer. So I suppose that’s a sort of happy ending. Oh, and a slightly pompous sign-off: “It is also valuable to note that handwritten prescriptions are also perfectly acceptable.” Point rather missed there, but hey.

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