How did you enjoy my driving?


I always refuse to answer surveys, particularly commercial ones.

A chain of budget hotels, for example, doesn’t need to ask me how I found my customer experience, especially if the reward for doing so is an outside chance of a free night at another budget hotel.

The simple things all budget hotels should do, rather than pester their customers with tedious questionnaires, is keep themselves clean, replace expired light bulbs and serve an edible breakfast.

Surveys are as annoying and intrusive as restaurant staff instructed to ask you, at five-minute intervals whether ‘everything’s all right’, to which the true reply might be ‘it’s as average as I expected’ or ‘actually, I don’t feel entirely all right at the moment because I’ve just been served a bankruptcy notice’. The actual reply, however, is usually something like ‘yerugebba’ because I don’t want to give a considered response while eating my dinner. I came here to relax. I didn’t book a session with Jeremy Paxman.

And anyway, this ‘how was it for you? We want your views’ routine is bogus. I can’t tell the budget hotel that I would prefer blue sheets to white, or the restaurant that their unimaginative garnishes depress me because the people in charge do things the way they do them. Asking our opinion about it is not likely to create changes; it’s more about creating a self-justifying sense of approval.

Remember that the people who set the surveys live in a management culture which must assume, to validate itself, that those lower down the line are hopelessly incompetent and so have to be asked, for example, whether they would like their breakfasts, their dinners, their train-arrivals or their surgical procedures to be on time. Well of course they would; it’s a question not worth answering.

I’ve recently thrown away (for the third time) an elaborately-printed, eight-page survey asking me my views on GP services. The survey, by Ipsos MORI, who I imagine don’t come cheap , seems to assume that GPs need a better understanding of what patients want, or would want if there were not so many holes in the NHS. Really, there’s no point in establishing that people would prefer longer GP consultations if there’s not enough GPs to deliver them.

But the Big Plan for the NHS is to give an impression of choice, so we can get our bunions or our feelings of ‘being a little bit poorly’ dealt with on Sunday afternoons (though of course it is important that serious conditions can be dealt with at any time). It’s based on the endless-choice business model pioneered by Tesco before Tesco got itself into a mess .

When this model is judged to be unsustainable (which always means ‘we’re preparing to destroy you’), the NHS will be found to have collapsed and will be sold off - clumsy metaphors alert - with a crocodile sigh to American health-care sharks.

I will not abet the destruction of British health care by collaborating with a system which spends a great deal of money conducting surveys which have little to do with improving health or care but a lot to do with exaggerating, as a prelude to privatisation, public-sector inadequacies; better to allow, for a change, the people who do the job to do the job.


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