One of the greatest achievements in customer satisfaction on the London Underground was not to make the trains faster or more frequent but was rather the implementation of the dot-matrix displays that told passengers how long they would have to wait until the next train arrived. The reason being, as was proven by the initial research and the subsequent satisfaction surveys, it was not the waiting that caused tension, but rather the not knowing how long that wait might be.

That is a concept we see echoed in service and product delivery systems around the globe, but, alas, something being eliminated in one of the most important sectors, health, because the solution to considerable delays in Torrevieja hospital is seemingly not to improve the service, but rather not tell anyone how bad it is, as the real-time information system that told patients of the expected waiting time has been withdrawn.

“Time is important. On this screen you will be able to see in real time how long you would have to wait on average at the rest of the department’s emergency points,” reads the sign located still in the most visible place of the automatic doors of the Emergency Service.

But the screens have disappeared – for a few months now the one located at the entrance and a couple of weeks ago the other two inside the waiting room – and have left a gap visible to the naked eye without the department having bothered to remove the informative signage.

The system launched more than fifteen years ago by the department’s privately managed concessionaire fulfilled a double objective: it tried to persuade users to go to the Primary Care Emergencies before going to the Hospital and it was also one of the multiple strategies of image campaign – a priority for Ribera Salud in his management in Torrevieja – deployed by the healthcare company that, with this and other services, differentiated its services from those provided by the public system.

The Generalitat “rescued” the health area for direct management in October 2021. Since then, the private sector has been able to flourish and grow, opening up countless clinics and hospitals in the area to provide a two-tier health system, in part due to the standards to which Torrevieja hospital has fallen.

So, as we approach another busy summer season, we can do so knowing that the delays in public health emergency care have been reduced to none-existent, at least to the naked eye, whilst those who pay for private care can still be treated at an acceptable standard. Mind the gap!