All hospital beds are fitted with these devices. Often they're festooned with various buttons that are supposed to operate the bedside radio, room lighting and, if you’re really lucky, a television. The truth is that none of these buttons will work properly except for the buzzer. It is a large red button you must press to summon a nurse or health care assistant to tend to your needs.
At the moment there are no league tables showing how quickly a given ward or hospital responds to a patient’s buzzer. This seems a trifle odd since everything else in the health service – from the time it takes an ambulance to get to a patient, to the number of times the phone rings before a clueless twerp from NHS Direct answers – is measured and monitored for efficiency.
Frankly, the buzzer is a bit of an unreliable beast. You could press it and be lucky enough to find a nurse at your elbow in less than a minute. More likely, though, you could be halfway through War and Peace before someone deigns to turn up to find out what you want. This can be problematic, especially if your needs are of an urgent toiletry nature.
I’ve been giving this problem some thought and I think I may have come up with a solution. Instead of buzzers, why not put a telephone next to each patient’s bed with a direct hotline through to the nursing station and an automated answering service? I could see it working something like this…
“Thank you for calling the Clinical Response Automated Patient-line. Your call is important to us and may be recorded for training purposes and for future improvements to the CRAP service.
- If you’re calling to request a bottle please press 1 followed by slash.
- If you require a bedpan please press Number 2.
- If you’re in pain and require analgesics please press 3 and scream very loudly.
- If you're feeling depressed, for goodness’ sake press 4 and pull yourself together.
- If you wish to complain about the food… don’t! or we’ll spit in your soup.
- If you feel really unwell press the emergency button and we’ll pop in as soon as EastEnders is over.
Thank you for calling the SHIT service. Have a nice stay and do call again.”