PhD student, estranged MedChir member and Surgo’s resident moral yardstick Louis Nerurkar takes our hand into the dystopian future of our NHS…
Jack hurried through the doors of the station, his scrappy grey overcoat flapping in the wind barely keeping the rain from wetting his clothes. He needed to get to the local Compassion™ Health centre before work. The insulin card in his wallet had been warning him all week that he needed to top-up urgently; as a bronze card holder, he couldn’t manage his account online but only in person at Compassion Health Terminals.
The doors to the Health centre swept open in front of him, the small chip in his arm beeping to register that his entrance had been scanned. Use of the facilities would cost him valuable Compassion™ Dollars so he needed to move quickly, he had work to get to anyway. As he headed towards the Health Terminals in the main entrance hall, he saw the long queue of pale sickly looking people stretching around the corner.
Resigning himself to a long and expensive morning, Jack realised he’d have to spend the extra for a sick note today. Still it’s better than losing my job and it was good that Compassion™ Health centres provided them, some companies no longer even had it as a service. Their opinion was that if you were sick, you cost your company money and that was your fault not theirs – an understandable viewpoint – although Jack appreciated the softer touch Compassion™ had. Jack waited in the entrance lobby, the stifling heat surrounding him and the low hum of the lights overhead buzzing in his ears. His vision narrowed and blurred as the world around began to shift and fade. Finally, with a loud but unassuming thump, he fell to the floor.
Blinking as he came to, he saw a face looking down on him. “Sir, can you hear me? We need your payment details”
His mouth felt clammy and he tried to speak, the face once again requested his payment details. Slowly coming to his senses Jack felt into his pocket for his payment cards and handed one over. The face disappeared, and he heard the beeping of a nearby machine as his card was processed.
“I’m sorry sir, but your card has been rejected.”
“Well I was in the queue to top up when I think I fainted and this is where I am now” Jack replied feebly.
“I’m sorry, but that’s not my problem, sir. The problem my colleagues and I are facing is that there are now unpaid fees on your account, and that’s not including the supplemental economic distress payment I will now have to surcharge due to your lack of fees.”
“What do you mean economic distress payment?” inquired a confused but unsurprised Jack.
Pointedly looking at her watch, she replied, “I really shouldn’t have to explain everything, do you know how distressing it is for us to not be able to receive payment in a timely fashion, not just for me but for Compassion?” After glancing at the screen behind her, the Compassion™ Physician turned back to face Jack. “Anyway, you will have to go now. I’ve put in a payment order with your employer and you should be paid up soon. According to our computer, with surcharges and interest, your account should be cleared within two months. As I can see that you are quite ill and won’t be able to get your insulin during this time, I’ve put in a special request to allow you basic food package money but even that may not be approved”
Turning to an unseen assistant the Physician began discussing logistics before pointing briskly from Jack to the door. Approaching the bed, the assistant pulled Jack up. “I’m sorry sir, but you’re going to have to leave. These beds are quite valuable to us and you aren’t paying so it’s time to go”
With the unyielding efficiency of a man who knows that time is money, the assistant had Jack dressed, standing, and holding his bill before he’d fully come to his senses. “The exit is on your right as you leave, sir, and remember until you’ve paid up you won’t be able to access these facilities,” he said, adding jovially, “So don’t have any accidents!” With a gentle push Jack found himself in the corridor, walking towards the exit.
Today has really not been my day, but at least I can work to pay it off. Still, if there was one thing I’ve learned it was that the motto of the Department for Work and Pensions was correct: “Those who don’t work don’t deserve.” I’m a striver, not a skiver. If only I work a little harder it will all be okay next month.