Business as usual is not an option. Going out of business is not an option
Just when you thought ‘spellcheckophobia’ couldn’t be any scarier than a wooden frying pan, I was doing a snagging list for one of my rental properties. Anybody in the rental business knows about HMOs (houses in multiple occupation), sections 13 and 21 and, of course, the very expensive section eight, of the Housing Act.
I have rented out houses since the 1990s and have built up a portfolio in double figures. What started out as a hobby can be quite a headache at times. All properties at some time or another need a complete refurbishment, no matter how well they are looked after, and will need ten-yearly structural checks in addition to the usual annual ones.
I had one of those squatter tenants whose credit checks didn’t flag up how the world owes them a living, so finally after two months of no rental but plenty of excuses, I went down the forceful eviction route. Months and several more thousands of pounds later, I gained entry and the place was a wreck. It’s an occupational hazard and I’m very lucky it was my first. The whole place needed gutting and taking back to bare walls.
I made a snagging list, which I passed on to the appropriate skilled labourers and some came back and asked if I was sure. It turns out I didn’t send a ‘snagging’ list but a ‘snogging’ list, and amongst other things I wanted to snog were a new carpet throughout the four-bed house, a kitchen with marble worktops, a bath unit,
triple-glazed windows and three new toilets. It was shameful and anywhere else I would have been arrested, dressed in an orange boiler suit, had my head shaved and been sent out of the village in shame.
My nightmare was about to get worse though, and all because of New Year’s Day. In the week after Christmas I had time to reply to group emails, so I wished everyone a happy and peaceful perennial respite between Christmas and New Year, which is much needed after the madness leading up to Christmas and the madness before the January sales. It was harmless, well-meaning, heartfelt and genuine, so I was surprised when a respondent from the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry thanked me, exclaiming what an interesting turn of phrase I had used. I was gobsmacked when I read what I had sent.
I didn’t wish everyone a happy ‘perennial break’ but a happy ‘perineum’ between Christmas and New Year! I went through 50 shades of embarrassment, pleading guilty and clemency as orange boiler suits don’t really suit me. Luckily people saw the funny side, metaphorically speaking of course. And thankfully, because their cheeks were probably still glowing with gin and tonic cheer, they didn't take offence.
My recent command of the English language makes me feel like an honorary member of the 'thingamabob' and 'donchafink' brigade, so before I become a full card-carrying member I make sure I read everything before I send it … three times!
When I was a child I wanted to be like my dad, and if I couldn’t then I’d be an astronaut. These days I'm closer to being a gastronaut. I sat on the sofa watching Major Tim blast off from Kazakhstan and it reminded me of George Bush saying, “it's not rocket surgery ...”
Thinking about the Ridge bombshell just before Christmas, I was thinking this isn’t about efficiency and it’s not rocket science – it’s bedlam. It’s evidence-thin and without impact assessments, and considering the vertical discounts of multiples and other indicators, how can the Department of Health carry so much hope on so little? Maybe they've all discovered the secrets of time travel, an elastic hour-glass, or how to create a week of nine days. But if they had all the answers how could they fail to prevent the junior doctors going on strike?
Pharmacists in every sector work so hard, and I thought that because we sweated, heaved, strained, pushed and pulled, against all odds, that it would translate into levels of performance and productivity that would be the envy of a Zambian copper mine. Not so. My PPA returns are very poor when considering my increased script numbers, and over-the-counter has also dropped.
The business of business is the avoidance of risk. People who’ve never run a business think businesses like risk. Wrong – no business carries more risk than it absolutely has to. Business is risk averse. I’m working harder for less remuneration, which makes me think of the DH as that famous man who knew the price of everything and the value of nothing.
Business as usual is not an option. Going out of business is not an option. There are options: things we’d like to do and things that are nice to do. Now is the time to concentrate on the things we have to do, and I’ve already had to let go of a part-timer and may need to release another.
More for the same now means more for less, and even going bust to boot. It’s totally unachievable, thanks to years of underfunding, recent poor commissioning and lack of ringfenced funding.
Pharmacists like me, who are in the patient arena every week and are compassionate in the understanding of human frailty, touch lives and somehow remain impartial to politics or differences and it’s incredibly touching how our patients honour and support us. It's humbling that so many put faith in us to continue, as it shows a great degree of trust and it's a real thrill for me personally to have what I do acknowledged on a daily basis. So it’s very unfortunate that the great divide between patients and the NHS, and the politicians and civil servants who manage it, has been exposed as so big that you can see it from outer space.