The joys of the walk-in blood test clinic

November 22, 2013 at 6:00 pm | Posted in arthrits, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, joint pai, Me, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 4 Comments
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Last time I had my monthly (now three-monthly) rheumy nurse appointment at the surgery, they happened to be running the first walk-in blood test clinic. These will run every Thursday – no appointment necessary, just turn up any time on Thursday, take a ticket, sit down, wait to be called and have your blood taken. No actual nurse appointment – in and out, ram in the needle, suck the blood, off you go. Well … that’s the theory.

My rheumy nurse had blithely assured me that they had run trials on this and each person could be seen and sent on their merry way in 1.5 minutes. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear that this wasn’t quite the way things were going on the day I happened to be there. As I say, I wasn’t there for one of these walk-in tests – I just had the dubious pleasure of observing while waiting for my appointment. I am supposed to go along in a couple of weeks time for one.

Well I arrived around 8:30 for my appointment and saw a big board on the wall with raffle-ticket type numbers on it. They had obviously run from 1 to 50 but 40 of the tickets were already gone and the waiting room was alarmingly full. As I sat down a weary looking phlebotomist poked her head round the door and yelled ‘Seven … seven? Is number seven here?’ Number seven was not there – I think number seven had got fed up with waiting and gone home!

‘Eight … number eight?’ A grumpy woman got up and pointed out she’d been there since 7:30 that morning and had now waited an hour for one of these quick appointments.

When I went in for my appointment (dead on time, bless her!) my dear nurse looked a tad frazzled. ‘What IS going on out there?’ I asked, and she explained that this was the first run of this new system, they were two nurses down  and the practice manager was on holiday! She was trying to fit in the odd ‘walk in’ patient on top of her full rheumy list, to help out.

Well – that couldn’t be helped, could it? I mean if people call in sick, you’re stuck, aren’t you? No one to blame. And of course the NHS can’t afford to employ locum/bank nurses to fill in – just one of those things, I thought.

Then I thought again. I know this place, I thought … ‘Erm … dear rheumy nurse,’ says I, ‘how long have these ladies been off sick?’

‘Oh, don’t!’ says the dear nurse, ‘Joan’s been off so long I can’t even remember and Julie’s recovering from an operation so she’ll be off a while.’

Right … so whose bright idea was it to start off this system KNOWING they were two staff down and couldn’t possibly cope? I don’t know but I can guess … someone who was on holiday, perhaps?

By the way, when I came out from my 15 minute appointment there was a nurse shouting ‘Ten … number 10 …’

So ‘we can turn these people round in 1.5 minutes’ had apparently turned into ‘We can turn these people around in … um … probably about 15 minutes’ given that there were two nurses doing this walk-in full-time and others stepping in when they could.

Number 43 was off the board by then – I wonder how long until they ran out of tickets – I overheard a receptionist saying, ‘Oh, I think they’ve all gone – you’ll have to come back next week’ to someone, before realising there were some tickets left, so presumably there are only 50 slots and ‘Turn up any time on Thursday will actually mean ‘Turn up before 9 on Thursday or you’ll be out of luck.’

Of course the new Clinical Commissioning system that is now in place but not in place and has no one actually running it is no doubt partly to blame … but that’s a whole nuther story …



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  1. Oh, my, Penguin. What a mess!

    I get my blood tests done every six weeks or so at the VA lab, where we take a number and wait after checking in. There have been a few times when I’ve had to wait for a half-hour or so, but most of the time I’m in and out within 15 minutes or less. Of course, they seem always to have three or four phlebotomists (read: vampires) working.

    So, I know the take-a-number system CAN work pretty well–but it can obviously be a mess, too. I hope by the time you go for your bloodwork they’ll have a full staff on the clock and a handle on the new system!

  2. A mess about describes it, but it’s encouraging to know the system can work! Let’s just hope I can give a much happier report when I actually go for my first walk-in, in a few weeks’ time!

  3. Huh – whoever planned it had obviously never done the job! There is NO WAY a patient can arrive in the room, sit in the chair, have their details checked, have blood taken and bleeding stopped and be on their way in 1.5 mins. Not on even in the summer when there is a good chance they might just have a short sleeved top on. In the winter – they have to remove layers and layers!
    Here in the local hospital they have a turn up and take a number system. You arrive and queue with number to be booked in. Then you get another number to get your turn for the vampire and are called using a lights system. Regular patients just in for an INR get a different number so we are through quicker. There are 4 vampires. If I get in and out in 15 mins at any time of year it was amazing, it can be anything up to an hour or even more if there are any hitches. They open at 6.30 to take a number, booking starts at 6.45 and bleeding at 7. They close the doors at 10. In that time they normally manage up to about 120 between them. There is also no problem with a second patient coming in to be started whilst the last person is getting dressed again. I can’t imagine that is tholed in the UK system.
    But having been a vampire myself – it’s asking for trouble. Some patients just don’t want to part with their blood – they have weird veins, veins that hide, veins that look lovely and then go pop, blood that just doesn’t want to leave home. And you need to set up the syringe and stuff, put gloves on, swab the skin, put the tourniquet on, get the needle in and fill all the bottles, make sure the arm is OK and not pouring blood … 1.5min – in your dreams!

  4. Hi Eileen the ex-Vampire, thanks for your input – QUITE – I have no idea how they can claim to have done trials and done it in that time – highly unlikely! As to one patient coming in while the other is still dressing, they do that every year for the flu jabs – in fact they don’t even close the door. They get about three people hovering in the corridor waiting to pounce on whichever jabber is finished first, regardless of state of previous patient! So yes, it is ‘tholed’ in the UK – great word!!

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