Tuesday, 18 May 2010

They Batch Whilst We Queue

I’ve just returned home from driving my youngest daughter and her friend to our nearest, local, cinema.

This cinema is located on the outskirts of town in a busy retail park, which seems to be the norm these days.

To service the retail park there is a very long three lane carriageway in both directions. There’s no alternative.

Unbeknown to me (and probably to all the other road users in both directions) the local authority had decided to conduct some important maintenance along this carriageway.

As a result both the inner and outside lanes, on both carriageways were completely closed for several miles, leaving just one lane open, the middle one.

I could only guess from the evidence (because nobody thought to tell me) that the outside lane was closed whilst folks from the local authority cut the grass on the central reservation whilst the inside lane was closed for them to sweep up leaves and clear the drains (I did actually witness this activity just starting to take place right at the beginning of the lane closure)

Not only had they closed a very long section of the inside lane whilst a very slow activity had just commenced (they could have closed just small sections at a time where the work was actually taking place) but the ‘grass cutting’ activity in the outside lane had obviously been completed some time ago yet the lane was still closed.

Assuming that both activities (being performed by the local authority) were planned to take place at the same time they obviously weren’t synchronised. Not even remotely.

So the outside lane was still closed even though the work had been completed and miles of the outside lane were closed even though the work hadn’t really started. And guess what - the paying customer, the road users had to do – queue (and for a very long time)

Fortunately my daughter and her friend had the foresight to figure out that they needed 3D glasses to watch the film so wanted to leave for the cinema early to buy some, so we made it just in time.

Sitting in the queue driving home (there is no alternative route from the retail park) gave me the opportunity to reflect on my frustration.

It reminded me of everyday practices in healthcare:

Processes are not synchronised to suit the customer, the patient, but to suit the care providers.

The care providers actually batch the customer, the patient, to suit their working patterns.

No one tells the customer, the patient, that any of this is going to happen.

The result being that the customer, the patient, ends up in a large queue just like me in suck in that middle lane, the difference being that whilst I was merely bored and frustrated the customer’s needs in healthcare are far, far, greater and yet share the same experience.

I hope the traffic has died down before I drive back to the cinema to pick my daughter up, because I’m sure those lanes will still be closed.

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