A tale of two agencies

Mixed experiences with two arms of the state today.

On my list of to-dos after moving was to sign up with a quack locally.  Last week I got around to googling for GP practices in the area.  It presented them nicely on the map, and I see there’s exactly one that’s genuinely local.  Looks like an easy choice, and a neighbour speaks highly of them.

So last Thursday I went round there.  They required identity documents which I didn’t have: I offered bank/credit cards, but don’t carry anything else around.  Come back with a utility bill or similar showing my address.

OK, I can do that, and today (Thursday being my usual free day during the week) I went back, bearing gas and electricity bills and a bank statement.  Nope, not sufficient: this time they insist on photo-ID.  Buggrit, why couldn’t they have told me that before?  I’m fine with them asking for it[1], but annoyed by lack of consistency.

As it happens, my old passport expires in September, and I had sent it off just last week as supporting document in my application for a new one.  So I had no photo-ID.  Looks like I’ll have to wait.

Then early afternoon today there’s a knock at the door.  Mail delivery to sign for: it’s the new passport.  So that’s taken just one week.  OK, it’s just a renewal, and I guess I’m a straightforward case ‘cos I’m easy to recognise from the ‘photo in the old passport.  But even so, they say simple renewals should expect three weeks and allow for more.  So finally I can go and sign up for a local quack.

Full marks to the passport office for efficiency.  Bottom of the class to the NHS for vagueness and inefficiency and messing me about.  OK, not exactly critical, but it seems depressingly reminiscent of when it does matter.

[1] Though it seems perverse in a country where we aren’t required to possess any form of photo ID, and not everyone has any.

Posted on August 29, 2013, in nhs, red tape, uk. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Indeed, there must be many people around who do not drive and do not travel abroad and who, therefore, may well have no photographic ID. In a country whose authorities are so obsessed with “equality” and “social inclusion”, what you describe seems to be a clear case of discrimination against those who, not having need of (or being able to afford) such documents, are likely also to be elderly, disabled or poor people. If you can’t get onto a quack’s list without this it’s little wonder our accident and emergency units are full to breaking point – it’s the only way the medically disenfranchised can get the treatment they need.

  2. I wonder… how long before they offer to accept a Facebook page as “valid photo ID”?

  3. I downloaded the registration form for the local doctor from the NHS website. When I went there (with photo ID!) I was told that there’s a bunch of other forms I also need to fill out and “there’s not much point downloading the form off the internet”. I was sent away to do my homework.

    Today I was told that my government-issued driving license is not acceptable as proof of address, despite having my address on it, because “people forget to change the address on their license”. Apparently a utility bill is considered more secure.

    The last piece of the jigsaw puzzle: to register you now need to know your NHS ID. This cryptic code is needed in order for the GP to request your details from your previous surgery. In times past, your name, address, and date of birth were sufficient. For reasons I cannot understand, that no longer works. Now you need the unique key from some hideous database. Nice way to expose the users to implementation details, NHS.

    The part of me that is proud of public health care is gradually being killed by the part of me that loathes bureaucracy.

  4. Andrew: (I’m told, by someone who should know, that) the very best thing about NHS IDs is: they are separate – but, in format, indistinguishable – from National Insurance numbers.

    There are a lot of people in the UK who have been using an NHS ID in place of a NI number, or vice versa. Lots of people think they’re the same thing. And unless you go out of your way to check – there’s no way to detect the error until the day you retire and find out you’re not entitled to a pension, because all your contributions have gone into a non-existent account.

    Just something to look forward to.

  5. The identity check is not universal.

    Certainly I just filled a GMS-1 and provided my NHS number. I can imagine if you don’t have an NHS number there is scope for fraudulent registration, although I’m guessing most doctors would be pretty suspect of prescribing anything hugely expensive, or hugely saleable without a fair idea who the person is and what is wrong with them.

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