Employment advice: Tweaking the system

Kieron Hill, from Kieron Hill Employment Services, offers some tips on sticking with a system that works

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Kieron Hill

For more information about Kieron Hill Employment Services visit their website or call 0161 850 1122. You can find them at 23 New Mount Street, Manchester, M4 4DE.

Tweaking the system

LET ME put my cards on the table – I don’t believe there is anything in this world that is 100 per cent perfect. Every system has its flaws and sometimes you have to accept that.

The problems start when meddlesome humans try to make “it” better. There is a normal human reaction to improve things but most of the time we cannot guess the consequences.

Let’s take GP appointment booking as an example. When someone phones to make an appointment, there are only so many available that day and those often disappear within minutes of the phone line opening, so you have to allow people, who do not need to see the GP urgently, to book an appointment for another day.

Problem is if you do that you reduce the number of appointments for that day. Also there is anecdotal evidence that the further ahead the booking is made, the more likely the patient doesn’t turn up.

A common reaction is to limit the way advance appointments are offered so there are enough appointments available on the day. This ends up being complicated by the fact that GPs will need to arrange follow up appointments, reducing the number available still further.

Each call to the surgery then gets longer as the system is explained to an increasingly frustrated (and sometimes scared) patient, which makes it harder to get through on the phone causing yet another area of complaint.

I have even heard patients being advised that they can call back another day to see if there any appointments then. All that does is double the amount of staff resources needed to book an appointment (as well as being pretty irritating to the patient).

Are your eyes glazing over yet? Mine did when I went through this with a surgery last month, because the fact is, everybody gets to see the GP or talk to them on the phone eventually. Every time we tweaked the system all that happened was we made it harder to provide the service.

My surgery? Well I called them (after the morning rush settled down) and was offered either a phone call or an appointment later in the week or I could come in and wait for a slot.

One phone call and it was sorted. What was also good was that when I phoned the staff member didn’t tell me what I couldn’t have, they gave me options to resolve the problem.

The trick is to design a system that is simple and flexible enough to deal with anomalies; don’t tweak it to deal with rare occurrences because eventually you will have a system that doesn’t deal with normal events.


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