This story is absolutely true and happened on 24th June 2002

 I was called at 3pm or so on Sunday afternoon by the mother of a friend. He had hurt his arm in an accident with a lathe and feared it was broken. He couldn't move his fingers and it hurt a lot.

I obliged by collecting him and driving to the nearby Accident and Emergency Department of our local hospital in Bournemouth.

I imagined we'd have to wait around so I collected a book on the way out.

The first thing that greets you are warning signs about your car being towed away if a ticket wasn't purchased and placed on the windscreen. In the rush I'd not brought any money with me, and must have looked a little crestfallen seaching through my pockets for change, because another car, which was departing, stopped and the driver handed me a ticket good for two hours.

I'd dropped Mike off at the front door so after parking walked over to the entrance.

"Guess what?", he said. "There's a wait of six hours before I get to see the doctor".

I walked over to the reception window. Inside were no less than four people, probably Administrating and drinking tea.

"What's all this about... surely we haven't got to wait six hours I asked one of the Administrators (presumably the Delay Calculating Administrator)?"

"It'll be about twenty minutes to see the nurse", she said. "But then you'll have to wait six hours to see the doctor. And by the way it may be longer if an ambulance arrives with someone else".

"Come on Mike we'll go to Poole Hospital".

There was a voice from the Administrators Room. "There's currently a five hour wait there", it said. That must have been the "Monitoring Waits in Other Hospitals Administrator".

"I find this incredible", I said...

"I'd like to make a formal complaint. This is like the Third World".

Another Administrator was called (presumably the Complaints Administrator) and she handed me a piece of paper. "Fill this in and post it", she said. It was the official complaints form.. I looked at it and it was full of spelling mistakes. "Not very re-assuring", I thought; and the speed it had been produced seemed to indicate, not surprisingly, that I wasn't the first to complain.

We sat down and waited. We noticed there was no reading material just lots and lots of incredibly bored looking people sitting silently in rows. I started to read my book.

Soon Mike was called to be seen by the nurse.

He returned after a few minutes.

"We have to wait six hours", he said.

"I asked about an X-ray to see if my arm was broken but she said I'd have to wait for the doctor to see about that".

"Did you tell the nurse your arm hurt a lot?", I asked. "No", he said, "I didn't mention it and she didn't seem to care, she just filled in a form".

I said, "why not fall off your chair and pretend to have fainted with the pain". He didn't fancy doing that in case no-one noticed.

It was 4:15pm and in six hours it would be 10:15pm.

"I haven't had my lunch yet", I said. "Perhaps we should come back in six hours, it's no use sitting here".

We approached one of the four Administators (the Arrange To Come Back Later Administrator). "We'll come back tonight", I said.

"It'll be worse then because you have to wait longer at night".

I said, "No..it will be night in six hours. It will be 10:15pm and that's night and that's when Mike's due to see the doctor".

"Oh yes", she said, "so it will; but you'll have to wait". "No surely not", I said, "we'll have been waiting six hours by 10:15pm and we shall be at the front of the queue. Mike will get seen to straight away".

"Oh", she said, "I suppose you must be right. I'll tell the Coming Back Later Executive Administator to make a note in your file to that effect".

We went away.

Late that night Mike didn't feel like going back because his arm was getting better. At least he could move his fingers a little. Maybe it is broken but it'll probably heal by itself. That evening a neighbour, who is a nurse, had wrapped a bandage round it.

I still can't understand why there were four people in the Reception Room. If each person had to wait six hours surely one Administrator could deal with the form filling. They'd got up to six hours in which to do it? Presumably Administrating is four times more important than treating patients?

If this is the ratio of Administrators to proper workers in the Hospital , no wonder the NHS is going under!