The following is to be sung (at a push) to the final verse of the 12 days of Christmas….

Four days before Christmas Eurostar gave to me

Cancelled trains due to adverse fluffiness of snow

An extended stay in Brussels

1 car journey

5 train changes

1 taxi drive on sheet ice

2 shuttle buses

1 ferry journey

1 walk through Dover High Street

1 more train journey

1 tube ride

1 more taxi journey

And arrival back in very snowy Chiswick

The CEO of Eurostar might need to look at who is on his bus; it seems to me the right people might not be on it, or of course it could be the driver at fault.  Come on; everyone must know that they need a ‘fluffy snow technician’ on the bus (train), and remember this wasn’t any snow, this was fluffy French snow.

Joking aside, Monday’s shenanigans did reinforce a very basic, but none the less valuable lesson about communication.   Regardless of whether the fiasco this week with Eurostar should or should not have happened, whether it could or could not have been prevented, whoever’s ‘fault’ is turns out it is or isn’t, the main problem at the weekend and at the beginning of the week (aside from being stuck) was communication.  

No, it wasn’t ideal for hundreds of people to be stuck in the wrong place but what caused the biggest upset and annoyance was the fact that Eurostar did not communicate.   Whilst there are many things Eurostar could have done; opened their Customer Service Department outside regular opening hours, posted alternative routes on the website, had Eurostar representatives at the ferry terminals in both the UK and Calais, provided coaches to help people get between London, Lille and Brussels to name but a few, the general ‘line’ from Eurostar seemed to simply be ‘we don’t know what’s happening’.  Of course this wasn’t the fault of the Eurostar staff that were, on occasion, at the Eurostar Terminals but they probably got a load of flack for the seemingly poor responsiveness and complete lack of visible leadership from the Eurostar Senior Team, who could have been much more proactive and helpful.  

I had a lot of time on Monday and I started thinking about all the times patients wait in clinic for their appointments, about all the times patients have long waits between stages of treatment when we don’t update them sufficiently, when we cancel their surgery and say with good intention ‘we’ll get back to you’, or when patients fall inbetween services.   Very often it is the lack of communication that is the problem, not always the delay.  Of course delay in healthcare is far from ideal; it shouldn’t happen and in fairness I think we’ve come a long way in addressing some of these delays, but delays do still happen.  The majority of people are not unreasonable, they become unreasonable when they don’t know what is going on or when they are being pushed from pillar to post.   People like to be kept updated.

As one of our friends said whilst we were in ‘the holding bay’ on the ferry (P&O had rather more foot passengers than normal and disembarking from the ferry was becoming a bit of a bundle), ‘I am swinging from the very frayed end of my tether’.  We laughed at her, which didn’t help, and yes it was a royal pain in the bahooka and of course we all wanted to get home but at least this was not our health. In the grand scheme of things it wasn’t that much of a hardship, it could have been a lot worse (and was for many people), but still, I have never been so glad to see those white cliffs. 

I hope you all have a lovely Christmas period and very best wishes for a happy and healthy 2010, it’s going to be an interesting year.