The NHS is grinding to a standstill in the face of the harshest conditions for several weeks.
NHS bosses have activated emergency plans as prolonged spells of paperwork threaten to engulf hospitals and doctors’ surgeries complain of being completely snowed under.
The worst-affected areas have been put on a red tape alert. Heavy falls of paper are forecast for the foreseeable future.
Staff complaining of being “up to their necks in the white stuff” are struggling to get up in the morning. Those who manage to make it into work say they are unable to get anything done.
One manager told of her own near-death experience.
“It was awful,” she said. “There was a light dusting of forms when I came into the office, but by around 4pm the drifts were so deep you couldn’t get to the door. Luckily a colleague had brought a shovel, so we were able to dig our way out. I dread to think what would have happened otherwise.”
Finance directors are particularly vulnerable with many finding themselves on very thin ice or up frozen creeks without access to adequate paddles.
Meanwhile GPs complain that constant interruptions from people walking into their premises demanding to be “seen” are preventing them from completing vital paperwork.
One group of managers was found buried alive under several feet of self-assessment forms. “We ate Kit Kats and read each other passages from the Five Year Forward View to keep our spirits up,” said one grateful survivor.
Rescuers said they had no idea how long the managers had been there. “We arrived just in time. They were already talking gibberish. Any longer and this could have been a really tragic situation.”
MPs are demanding to know why the NHS was not better prepared for the onslaught of thick documents, which is always worst at this time of year.
But NHS England said that unexpected interim planning guidance had hit parts of the country very hard.
“This took us completely by surprise,” a spokesperson said. “It’s not unknown to see flurries of mind-numbing drivel towards the end of the financial year, but this winter is particularly bad.”
NHS England’s emergency response team say they are on top of the situation. A 96-page guidance document (Towards Digital: Aiming to Alleviate the Adverse Effects of Excess Paperwork and Inappropriate Form Filling in Due Course) is being rushed out to the hardest-hit areas in specially adapted snow ploughs equipped with high volume photocopiers.
A government spokesman said the NHS was coping well with the extreme conditions. “We’d like to pay tribute to the courage and dedication of NHS staff up and down the country for collecting essential data, completing plans and writing reports without which quite literally millions of people would get on with their lives as usual,” he said.
Winter of discontent editor: Julian Patterson
Reproduced at TrainingPrimaryCare.com by kind permission of Julian Patterson