Stop ticking the box (disarming a bureaucrat) #tokenism #NHS #bureaucracy

It’s world poetry day today and, as you may know, I try to publish a verse or two to mark the occasion each year. I was going to read this at the East Midlands Academic Health Science Network (AHSN) event ‘Stop ticking the box’ event last Monday.  But time did not allow.

This is for all patients, carers and their families – and for that matter our health professional colleagues – contending with meaningless ‘tick box’ bureaucracy and tokenism in health nod social care.

I hope you’ll the poor formatting.

Stop ticking the box (disarming a bureaucrat)

Put your pencil down

Now your clipboard

In front of you.
Where I can see them.

Now put your hands
Where I can see them

And listen.


A pox on your crosses
Your ticks in your boxes.
Take a hammer to your computer
Take a flame to your procedure.

Stop it with your bar codes
Your jargon and your data.
You look like a robot, roaming the floor
One like you, has asked me this before.

In bed, drip fed, flat on my back,
I might be. But I’m not a flat-pack
Patient made-to-order, with whom to go through the motions
Who has no emotions.

Don’t ask me to do your survey
To join your panel or committee
That’s just tokenism for you to parade
In front of your masters, what a charade!

Stop watching the clock
Tick tock, tick tock.
Stop ticking the box.
Get out of your box.


My name is [….]
And I’ll tell you anything you need to know

But don’t consign it
To a box.
It doesn’t fit
In a box.
You won’t find what you need
In a box.
You certainly won’t find me
In a box.
Stop ticking
The box.


Let’s stop for a moment
And forget your instructions
Let’s think for a moment
And work on some solutions

For I think you’ll find
That once we’re talking
We’ll tick all the boxes
Both yours and mine.

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