I am a very, very junior doctor, working in a busy A&E department. Last week as I finished my 108 hour spell of duty, I had a very strange experience. I suppose it could have been induced by fatigue, but I had definitely not been drinking.
A large white rabbit in a suit accosted me in the corridor – a cartoon rabbit, naturally, though not accompanied by Bob Hoskins. He kept glancing anxiously at a Rolex watch as he told me he was terribly late, and could I direct him to the directorate of directors? Taken aback by this directness, I replied that I wasn’t sure but there was a smart new building in the old car park…
He shot off down the corridor like an Olympic sprinter full of steroids. My curiosity aroused, I took a deep breath and followed in his wake into the new building, along a plush carpet lining a wide corridor decorated with modern artwork. I glimpsed him entering a door at the far end, which I soon discovered was marked “Personal Assistant to the Assistant Director of Directors’ Assistants”. As I entered the room I had a sense of a vast space, larger than most wards in the hospital, before I fell… I seemed to fall down a long, vast, echoing tunnel, finally landing on a pile of disused beds at the bottom. Next to me, the rabbit was studying a document titled “White Paper Meeting – Agenda”. He raised an eyebrow: “Come on, hurry up, we’re late. We were told on Wednesday that the deadline to hold this meeting was Tuesday; and today is Thursday”. He shot off again at top speed down a dimly lit corridor with doors far too tiny to enter. Unlike Alice, I could find no mushrooms. But right at the end, the double doors to the Boardroom allowed me to squeeze myself through. Inside, some kind of tea party was going on.
“Alright, lads”, said the chairman of the board. “It’s time to get this mess sorted out. Somehow we have to keep clinical services running, hack ten per cent off the budget without telling anyone, pay for this building, and implement twenty new directives from the Elephant and Castle.”
“I didn’t know Nigel Lawson had been put in charge,” muttered someone. “Why don’t we just use the minutes of our meetings as a script for the BBC, like 2012,” said the Income Generation Manager, who wore a large top hat. “We could make a fortune.”
“No one would ever believe it,” said the Chief Executive. “Anyway, we have to raise the money by last week. According to this timetable that they sent us today, we had to start planning the scheme last year.”
“Well, we could claim to be developing a new computer system,” piped up a geekish-looking fellow. “That’s sure to gain us a few years grace…”
“Brilliant!” exclaimed the chairman, “all we have to do is extract the information from the Patient Information Super System”…
Everyone groaned and looked depressed again. “I think I know how we can save some money,” said the catering manager, looking at the large white rabbit and licking his lips. At this, the rabbit bolted; everyone chased after him.
I was left alone in the room. Regal sounding footsteps approached and the reincarnation of a very important female politician, dressed as the Queen of Diamonds, entered the room. “Haven’t they built the damned supermarket yet?” she demanded.