Monday, September 22, 2008

Jumping the queue

I cant remember now where I read it, it was a while ago. But it was some advice from one Indian to another in the UK, about how one could get to be seen by NHS GPs quicker than the norm (the norm basically being at least a week of waiting for an appointment). Basically, the advice was to see a specialist privately (yeah, paying for it) and then, because the specialist would eventually refer you back to your GP, further appointments with the GP would be easy because you were referred by a specialist. At least, that’s what I think the idea was, if I remember right.

I thought it was a pretty good idea, and mentioned it to Pete as an example of ingenuity.

He agreed with the ingenuity but said it seemed unethical to him because it was like “jumping the queue” – yes, it got you ahead, but made it a longer wait for other people who couldn’t afford to see a specialist privately, that being the reason why they were in the queue to see an NHS doctor in the first place.


That certainly put things in a different light – I hadn’t thought about the consequences of that bit of ingenuity, and now that I’m better aware, I’m not about to abuse the system. Sure, I don’t like being unable to see a doctor on short notice (unless you go to the A & E section of a general hospital) – it’s annoying that if you’re ill you cant turn up without an appointment, and hope to be seen by a doctor.

I don’t like being ill, and I hate the idea of my loved ones being ill, but the bottomline is that nothing makes me and mine (or you and yours) more important than all the other people out there who are suffering or watching their loved ones suffer.

It also made me wonder – was that advice indicative of a typically Indian (or Indian sub-continent) trait to sneakily get around what is essentially a fair – though slow and cumbersome - system and use it for personal benefit, never mind everybody else? I’m certainly not proud of the fact that I thought the idea clever at first – it probably damns me as much as anyone who’s actually done it.

So… is it ingrained in us to be inconsiderate of other people, and cunning in our mentality, because we come from a poor and hugely overpopulated country, because of the yawning divide in prosperity, because of the corruption which means that only those who have money can get ahead, and those who dont are left to suffer? What is it that makes us take that attitude everywhere we go?

I do NOT mean that people from other races/ethnicities are blameless angels of goodness and rectitude – certainly not that. But this indifference to other people, at the most basic of levels… is that a typically Indian mentality?


Anu said...

Hi Shyam,

Very intriguing topic there. In fact, it's a common dinner-table discussion in the Indian community here, as to why (many) Indians, despite such qualities as a deep-rooted culture and higher-level education, don't really get ahead in the social world (for one). I believe it's because we lack a civic sense. An indifference, as you say, for others and our place among others.
It's sad, but very true. A while ago, I was teaching at a private school where many students were Indians, and it would appall me how many of them would not hold doors open for others or wait their turn.

I often hear Indians express absolute incredulity & disbelief, even, when I tell them tales about how staunchly adherent to etiquette the Japanese are; exclaiming that it's not 'human' to be that perfect, or that 'they're all faking'. I always end up aborting that discussion because there really is no reasoning with boors. Which, I am extremely sad to say, describes many of our fellow Indians (I said many, not all).

Pollux aka Paps said...

Shyam: I think it is an attitude that is common to any place where there are too many people. Aucklanders are not as freindly or nice as Wellingtonians are. Similarly in India, the smaller towns have freindlier folk and vice versa. To give you an example: people will queue up here for a bus, coz they know that there will always be seats. Whereas, they wont in India, coz they know if they're not in first, they've lost the seat. It is more of a rat race and the mentality does take some getting rid off. Let me ask you: you are Indian, yet, you didnt think of jumping the queue;-) where as someone else did. It takes all kinds. The bottomline? "But this indifference to other people, at the most basic of levels… is that a typically Indian mentality?" this is a typically human attitude.

SilentOne said...

I had commented on MG's blog about this and think you are referring to it, but was a slightly different situation.
It was seeing a specialist privately and then being referred back to the SPECIALIST on the NHS - no involvement of the GP.

It wasnt my ingenuity i have to admit because the specialist himself recommended it (a white man) to me when I went to him privately. I agree it was jumping the queue but I had no idea at the time. But if you ask me now if I will do it again, I will. Why ?

Because the NHS is not a fair system to begin with. In my experience, those who shout the loudest get the best treatment within it. And I have never been able to follow that, so I do it in the way I know - by paying for it. I have been very very docile in the past and have received very bad treatment from the NHS, so even though it may not be fair, since its the only way i get treated I have to take it.

shyam said...

Anu: It's such a pity, and I hate to agree - but what you say is true.

Gee: I guess so. I just wish it wasnt so.

Silentone: Okayyyy, so it was your comment? I cant say I've had a bad experience with the NHS, but I do understand from lots of people that it can be a pain to deal with. Again... I wish it wasnt so!

umm oviya said...

I agree with KiwiLaks...Absolutely!
the private consultant i see here actually has a provision for jumping the queue. You just have to pay 50% more...and it's not targetted at Indians, but at the wealthy Arabs who hate waiting. Even when the light is red at a traffic signal!
these flaws are not an Indian trait alone.
I've seen jumping the queue by Westerners who are all about 'civility'. If you go to the labour or visa sections here, the Westerners not only expect, but also receive preferential treatment over all the other 'third world' folks.

mumbaigirl said...

Interesting question. I don't know, I might have jumped the queue if I had been ill enough. As it is I was begging my GP to let me the specialist BEFORE I fell too ill, and she didn't let me when I really needed to. I don't think GPs should have that much power and there should be some way of accessing specialists that's fair.

Lekhni said...

I am not sure if only Indians think of workarounds, but I can see why they do. Back in India, every single event, from admitting your kid in a good kindergarten to getting an appointment/ attention of a specialist involves competing with hundreds/ thousands of people.. I guess at some level, it becomes a pure survival instinct.

If you look at it from a game theory perspective - let's say you play by the rules. Unless the other person also plays by the rules, you lose. If the other person knows you play by the rules, he has an incentive to cheat! What do you do then?

Chinchu said...

I agree with silent one. I would jump the queue and I don't think she should feel bad. If you jump the queue on the nhs by paying privately because you can afford it/ deem it necessary/ want a superior service than that provided, I don't see any fault in it and I don't think its sneaky or underhand. Its a service like any other.

Its unfair but who says life is fair? Is it fair that your taxes pay for able bodied individuals to sit at home and claim benefits.
The system is flawed .I don't think individuals should be blamed for coping with a faulty system.

This is not Indian-specific behaviour. We have our faults but I don't think you'r example was fair.

Teesu (very very Indian, very very good) said...

Basically, life's not fair, although we must probably all admit we are on the right side of justice most of the time.

In your case, if you have the money and want to pay for the appointment, who can judge you? It's like judging you for having more money than those other folks...which, is absurd. Right?