For eight years you’ve been suffering the same health problem. Once a year, maybe twice a year. Not always to the same degree of seriousness but frequently serious enough to necessitate hospital admission for a night. Each attack frightened you but you always recovered. You have had many kinds of test, all of them thorough, highly involved and using advanced equipment. All of them expensive, although you were not asked to pay for them.
After eight years you have grown tired of the lack of progress. Nobody ever followed up on the tests, although each time you were put on a waiting list. Lately you were told that the time for ‘Plan B’ has come, but Plan B didn’t materialise. Instead you went on another waiting list.
Once again you found yourself in your GP’s surgery, complaining. “We can do nothing”, the GP said. “Once you’re on the waiting list you have to bide your time”. Ringing the hospital’s booking office didn’t help. “I can confirm that you are on the list, but I don’t know when you will have reached the top (or bottom) of the list. Try the consultant’s secretary.” The consultant’s secretary couldn’t help. “Yes, I can confirm that you are on the list. Ask your GP to write and state that your condition is worsening. That might expedite matters.” The GP said: “They always say that, but they take no notice. They get these letters all the time. I’ll write, but I can’t promise that it’ll help.”
“How much would a private consultation cost?” you asked on Tuesday.
Your appointment to see the consultant for as long as you need is on Thursday; letters have been written and are awaiting delivery; you have been given copies of all the relevant test results, neatly packaged, and waiting lists have shrunk to the point of non-existence.