Spare a thought for 75-year old David Johnson, a man with a leg ulcer who was so annoyed by the pop music inflicted on him and others in the waiting room of the NHS clinic at The Halliwell Jones Stadium in Warrington, that he pulled the plug on the portable stereo (not so portable, in fact, as it had been chained to a shelf). Those nice people behind the counter turned it on again, so he pulled the plug a second time.
It’s for your own good, sir…
He was told – and oh how familiar this kind of crap sounds – that it was there “to ensure that conversations in treatment rooms could be kept private”. What kind of health centre is built with such disregard for patient privacy that they have to drown out the sound of conversations with pop music? And if it’s necessary in a building with treatment rooms, why don’t banks & post offices do the same, where privacy is important, yet no physical barriers exist between those waiting and those being served?
But I digress. Despite the murmurs of appreciation from his fellow sufferers, it was clear that the patients were going to continue to have to put up with music whether they liked it or not, so next week, Mr Johnson brings along some CDs of ballet music, which go down rather well.
Notice how the corporate story changes. A spokesman for Warrington Primary Care Trust now claims that the music was there to “enhance the ambiance, making the
wait for patients more pleasant.The choice of music is varied and has been selected following discussions with patients about their preferred choice.”
But wait, there’s more. It now seems that they’ve decided to pull the plug on the music themselves, saying that they’re ‘reviewing the situation’. The nameless spokesperson continues “If the outcome is to reinstate the music, then we
would only do so following the purchase of the appropriate licence.” I’ll return to that, but meanwhile, we now have three different stories from the NHS:
1) The music’s there to protect patient confidentiality
2) The music’s there to improve the patients’ waiting experience
3) Oh, er, the music’s not there any more, because we’re reviewing the situation.
Pulling the biggest plug of all
So why the sudden turnaround in (c), given that Mr Johnson’s efforts to turn the music off were so vehemently rebuffed at first?
Well, reading between the lines, my guess is that someone in the story must have familiarised themselves with music licensing regulations, and discovered that if the NHS want to inflict music on patients in the waiting room, they’ll have to buy an annual licence from the PRS & PPL, which, given the words “we would only do so following the purchase of the appropriate licence”, they had probably neglected to do. It wouldn’t cost them a whole lot of money, and if they really believed that it was so important for patient confidentiality and enjoyment, they would have just bought the darned licence and continued to ask the patients what they’d like to listen to.
I suspect that the ‘review’ consists of the practice manager deciding whether they can justify expenditure of NHS funds on a licence to play music that at least one patient has explicitly stated they don’t want. Or whether the patient’s confidentiality or fleeting musical enjoyment is worth the bundle of tenners the practice would have to throw at the requisite licences. I admit, when doctors only earn on average £100,000 a year, it must be a difficult choice.
The moral of the story is, if you are being tormented by someone else’s music in a public place, don’t bother appealing to reason, or try to pull the plug from the wall. Just ask to see their PRS & PPL licence.
The story comes, by the way, from the aptly named This is Cheshire, so if any of it isn’t true, blame them, not me.