An Unaccountable Mistake

I’ve been rather under the weather. I went to the doctor and they tried various things but none of them worked. Then they said, we’ve got this brand new treatment. You might like to try it. It might do the trick.

Is it free, I asked.

It was. It’s available through the NHS, just like the regular stuff.

What we do, they said, is to work out how you’d be and the medication that you’d be taking twelve months from now. That means that we can take advantage of – we can use – your own body’s defences and resources, which you yourself develop through that period.

That sounded convincing to me.

But how do I work out the medication that I’d be taking in a year’s time?

You don’t. The pharmacist does.

They gave me a prescription and I took it to the pharmacy. It was more complicated than usual and there was a computerised questionnaire, but then they gave me some tablets – only two weeks’ worth because it was experimental. The pills did seem to be doing me some good at last, so after the two weeks I got a repeat prescription from the doctor and went back to the pharmacy.

I had to do the computerised questionnaire again. There is a screen for the customer and another screen, which you can’t see, for the pharmacist. When I’d finished on my side a woman came over to look at the screen on hers. She frowned, said, Just a minute, sir, and went to get a man from the back office. I could tell at once that he was the Responsible Pharmacist, about whom there was a piece in a notice on the wall. He exuded responsibility. You could never imagine his responding to a request for information about pharmacy with the phrase, ‘Uppers, downers, whatever’.

He frowned too.

Does something seem to be the matter, I asked.

They made me do the computerised questionnaire again, and then both disappeared into the back room, from which the Responsible Pharmacist eventually emerged, still frowning.

There’s no easy way of putting this, he said. According to the computer you won’t be here in twelve months’ time.

What, you mean…

Yes, he said.

So much for my own body’s resources, I thought, rather bitterly.

I went home and spent the evening in sombre thought. I even made a first draft of a Letter of Wishes, linking various friends and relations with various artworks and pieces of interior decoration. In the morning they telephoned – which was nice of them. Nothing to worry about, they said; …very sorry…computer error…any inconvenience caused.

So that’s all right. The NHS – you’ve got to love it in spite of everything!

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