RyanAir why do you choose to be like this?

oleary_2357534bAnother 90 minutes spent wrestling with the “new, improved” RyanAir website and the strictly script controlled “online chat” operatives have led me to think once again about the company.

It’s too easy to just pillory them because of Fascinating Aida’s brilliant and accurate skit – go on watch it again it’s at the bottom of the post, it’s worth it. I know they’re the cheap airline and that has done a lots of good for those of us who fly regularly. This flight is for a holiday, was booked through an agent who admittedly  gave us plenty of warnings about ensuring we checked in online, so it feels a bit different from the 6.20am hop from Cork to Stansted.

What got me thinking was the corporate attitude, if you like to use the current buzz word then it’s the culture of the business. I was thinking about experiences anybody would have when dealing with the unapproachable wall of RyanAir.

This time I couldn’t check in online. Managed the website entry log-in without problems, then the who’s on the flight bit all fine, put in the passport details – great, now click the button to go to your boarding pass. Nothing, just two horizontal bars, one yellow one empty. Gave it 5 minutes. Nothing. Back a page  and all looked fine. Forward, same two unblinking bars.

Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 11.19.46There’s a facility to access an online help person so I logged in, name, email address, booking reference. “We have 72 waiting for attention time expected is 14 minutes.” Congrats to RyanAir for managing to introduce stress into accessing an online chat service. Would the browser freeze before there was an answer?  Don’t take your eye off it for too long. At least there was no Vivaldi.

Eventually, after only 9 minutes (under promise etc) I am in touch with someone at the other end of the internet. I state my problem concisely – I have had time to write it out and rehearse. I expected a “there are problems” because of the heavy traffic – the French Air Traffic controllers were playing silly buggers this morning leading to cancellations of RyanAir flights so, subsequently, lots of traffic – understandable, excusable – so a “could you give it an hour or so and try again? err, please” would have been fine with me.

Nope. “It will be a your browser, check that you have got the most recent version of your browser and you are using a private window”

This is it, this where RyanAir blows it every time. This is why they piss people off year in year out. They always take the position of: “It’s not our fault, it’s you, not us.” They remind me of the gaggle of nurses in the corporate practice that when you ask a question, any question that starts, “who…?”  before you have a chance to complete there is a chorus of, “It wasn’t me”.

Why not try, “I’m sorry to hear that, what browser are you using?” Oh Safari, there seem to have been glitches with Safari  recently; do you have Google Chrome?” etc

As it was it took a trip to Google Chrome then a re-consult with the help desk and they dumped me without a solution and then had the nerve to ask for feedback – the feedback form carefully worded so that you couldn’t give anything specific.
Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 11.18.10
So second attempt to get assistance sought after I got a message that said, “We are sorry (wow!!) but for technical reasons we are not able to generate your Boarding Pass at this time. Please try to refresh the page or close this window and click on the view Boarding Pass link.”

I had been clicking the view Boarding Pass link, other links took me to a page that said, “No resource found” cannot serve request to ‘blah/blah/retrieve my booking’ on this server.

This time the person at the other end of the internet assured me that there was nothing wrong with their computer Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 11.19.14 copysystem, and that it must be my fault.

To cut to the chase, their system eventually righted itself and our boarding passes were generated and printed. But, why oh bloody why, won’t you move yourself from this position of provocation. It seems that whenever there is an opportunity to irritate, to wind up, to distance yourself you take it. Move closer to your customers, communicate properly with them, talk to them, treat them like human beings and you might be amazed how much goodwill you will generate.

On the other hand why bother? You’re successful at being what you are – the airline that tries to put Cead Mile Failte on its backside.

2016 #26

The Monday Morning Quote #352

“My best friend is the man who in wishing me well wishes it for my sake”



2016 #25

What would John Ruskin have said about Groupon in Dentistry?

sad_grouponThe news that a practice in Manchester has gone bust is sad for the patients, the associates and the staff. The fact that this practice had apparently been selling orthodontics via Groupon limits the sympathy that I feel for the owner(s). If anyone has heard me speak in recent months then they will have had no doubt about my feelings regarding the race to the bottom tactics adopted by many “business people” running practices who seem to think that a weekend course or two and a slick marketing allied to a named treatment system is the key to riches.

Here’s a link to the MEN: Angry dental customers left out of pocket after cosmetic firm’s collapse

Of course it’s cases like this that the GDC should be policing and preventing but no amount of CQCs will address it. With Chairman Moyes’ ideas about Dental Care being just a variation on grocery shopping surely the consumers should be protected before the event rather than more ethical colleagues being left to pick up the pieces and restore dentistry’s reputation. No doubt the GDC will chase the associates and the nurses because they are easy meat but the really guilty people will get away with it muttering “Caveat Emptor, don’t you think Dr Bill?”.

What odds on the next good idea to emerge from 37 Wimpole Street being that all dentists who do any private dentistry (and are thus unfaithful to THE brand – NHS) should be forced into an ATOL type of cover so that claims against one dentist can be shared by all. The administration will no doubt come through an arm of the GDC, will be paid for by all registrants who have the temerity to do any private work and will be hailed as a victory for the consumer.

Before this develops into another rant, I’ll share with you the words of John Ruskin which I had typed, framed and hung in my reception area when I turned my back on the NHS in 1992.

  • “It’s unwise to pay too much, but it’s worse to pay too little.
  • When you pay too much, you lose a little money – that’s all.
  • When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do.
  • The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot – it can’t be done.
  • If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that you will have enough to pay for something better.”

 and as footnote:

  • There is hardly anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price only are this man’s lawful prey.

It’s all rather sad but predictable.

2016 #24

The Weekend Read – The Laws of Simplicity by John Maeda

51NnCABg8nL._SX343_BO1,204,203,200_Ever since I heard Einstein’s saying that, “All things should be made as simple as possible but no simpler”, I have sought,  espoused and taught a philosophy of simplicity. I used Mike Wise’s dictum to make your restorative work recoverable when doing clinical work and applied the same thought to all systems. Now Dr John Maeda has helped me take my thinking to a different level.

Coming in at exactly 100 pages this little book can be read in an evening or (as in my case) a couple of short flights. The advice to “Keep It Simple, Stupid” or the KISS principle is often given but seldom taken Dr Maeda’s book will help you to keep clarity in things.

He spells out in brief chapters his 10 laws for balancing simplicity and complexity in business, technology and design and thus in life itself. The irony is that simplicity is, itself, a highly complex subject so needs a great mind to explain it.

Made is a professor in MIT’s Media Lab and a world-renowned graphic designer and he explores the question of how we can redefine the notion of “improved” so that it doesn’t always mean something more.

His laws are:
Law 1 Reduce – The simplest way to achieve simplicity is through thoughtful reduction.
Law 2 Organise – Organisation makes a system of many appear fewer.
Law 3 Time – Savings intake feels like simplicity.
Law 4 Learn – Knowledge makes everything simpler.
Law 5 Differences – Simplicity and complexity need each other.
Law 6 Context – What lies in the periphery of simplicity is definitely not peripheral.
Law 7 Emotion – More emotions are better than less.
Law 8 Trust – In simplicity we trust.
Law 9 Failure – Some things can never be made simple.
Law 10 The One – Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful.

His Keys are
Key 1 Away – More appears less by simply moving it far away.
Key 2 Open – Openness implies simplicity.
Key 3 Power – Use less, gain more.

Just because something can be made complicated does not mean that it should be. His first example of a DVD player recorder is a good one; how many of us have despaired of it taking a pair of glasses and also the manual to have to do the most basic of functions?

The elegance of this approach is one of the basic foundations of the outlook that has made Apple the success that it has been. Less is not less just for its own sake.

A lovely little book that should make you re-evaluate everything that you do.

Available from The Book Depository.

2016 #23

Two (Senior) Doctors on the Junior Doctors’ Strike

When I was a House Officer and Senior House Officer in Oral Surgery from 1978 – 81, the name Russell Hopkins was mentioned with awe and some trepidation. He was Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery in Cardiff with something of the autonomy of consultants in the post Lancelot Spratt years (without the Roller), his domain was The University Hospital of Wales or “The Heath” as we Cardiffians called it.

Hopkins went into hospital management at the end of his clinical career and became General Manager of The Heath. My father was admitted there several times from 1992-95 with heart problems. His management went along the lines of: crisis, admitted, stabilised, sent back to GP care, this happened five or more times and it seemed that little was done to get his LVF properly sorted. It finally took my brother’s intervention to get an ex-colleague of his (who was thankfully a cardiologist) to go the ward, where our Dad was lying in a bed, and announce, “you are Jonathan Rees’s father and I am taking over your case”. The ward nurses tried to prevent his bed being moved as Dad was supposedly under the “care” of another consultant. I have no doubt that this change and the subsequent  care significantly prolonged his life.

My father had developed pressure sores during one of his admissions, my mother, a retired nurse, who considered such a basic nursing failure to be a sacking offence, took to treating his sores and trying to ensure they didn’t recur.

Hopkins himself was at the wrong end of care at another local hospital, Llandough, after problems during a hip operation in 2013 he said then that the NHS was “a mess”. He had my sympathies, of course, but there was a thought of, “now you know what others went through.”

His view on the junior doctors strike was printed in a letter to the Telegraph:

SIR – In 1998 I was elected a Fellow of the British Medical Association (BMA) in recognition of outstanding service. I had served on the central and subcommittees of the BMA in London and the Welsh equivalents for several years.
In those days, the BMA represented medical practitioners as a trade union, but with an acceptance of the needs of patient care and ethical practice. I do not recognise this today. The BMA has morphed into a militant, Left-wing political body seemingly interested in attacking the Government, while pressing the financial needs of the profession, giving little thought to patient care, ethical practice or the need for out-of-hours care.
Reasons that have led to today’s strike include a lack of clinical training for undergraduates; the 48-hour week imposed by the European Working Time Directive, which reduces both clinical training and patient contact; the loss of clinical teams led by a named responsible consultant; the contract changes for GPs and consultants (introduced by Tony Blair); and a malevolent management unaware of ethical clinical practice, which has destroyed much of the goodwill that sealed many of the cracks.
The last few years of my life have been made difficult by the consequences of medical negligence. I despair at the prospect of the quality of care my children and grandchildren can look forward to as they age.
The public utterances of the present junior doctors’ leader and the chairman of the BMA Council convince me that this is not the same organisation which I was once proud to serve. Therefore I propose, with considerable regret, to return my certificate of Fellowship to the Wales office of the BMA.
Russell Hopkins
Newport, Pembrokeshire

I think that this reply (from his daughter) says much:

SIR – I read the letter from my father, Russell Hopkins, with some dismay. He has been out of clinical practice for so long that he is disconnected from the problems facing the profession today.
Junior doctors chose to strike in order to take a stand against the destruction of the medical profession by a Government insistent on imposing an unfair contract that is ultimately driven by the desire to reduce pay and a promise to deliver non-emergency care at all hours.
I, too, worry for the future of the NHS, but for very different reasons. We need to continue to attract the brightest young people into medicine in order to maintain a high quality of service. With the proposed contract changes, plummeting morale and poor working conditions will mean that we will struggle to recruit anyone at all; school-leavers will simply choose other careers and those in training will continue to flee overseas.
My father and his generation enjoyed a career where they had respect and autonomy, were lavished with hospitality by drug companies, and then retired on final-salary NHS pensions. They would not recognise the job today.
As a consultant surgeon, I – along with most of my colleagues – support the junior doctors in their decision to strike.
Claire Hopkins
Orpington, Kent

Such a shame, for them, for us, for the country.

2016 #22





All UK Dentists should watch this.

logo-mainIf you’re a dentist and not UK based, or not a dentist at all then look at the way that UK government works.

This is a clip from Parliament TV featuring the House of Lords Grand Committee, discussing “Orders and regulations: General Dental Council (Fitness to Practise etc.) Order 2015”. Meeting held on January 18th 2016 starting at 3.30pm.

Lord Hunt speaks from 15.43pm and gives the GDC quite a kicking. Will they listen? More to the point will the people who appointed the current Chief Executive and Chairman listen?


The Greatest Breakthrough Since Lunchtime #21

(For the meaning behind the blog scroll down.)

From Medical News Today

electric-spark-vector_f135Alv__LNo more needles at the dentist – just a tiny electric current instead

If you’re scared of the dentist’s needles you’re not alone – but new research means you might not have to put off that appointment again. A study published in Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces reveals how the dentist could give you anesthetic using a tiny electric current instead of a needle.

The researchers behind the study, from the University of São Paulo, say their new findings could help improve dental procedures and bring relief to millions of people who are scared of needles. It would also save money and avoid contamination and infection, they say.

“Needle-free administration could save costs, improve patient compliance, facilitate application and decrease the risks of intoxication and contamination,” explained Professor Renata Fonseca Vianna Lopez, one of the authors of the study from the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil. “This may facilitate access to more effective and safe dental treatments for thousands of people around the world.”

Dentists often have to carry out invasive and painful procedures in the mouth. To minimize patients’ discomfort, dentists use anesthetics that block the pain, which are administered using needles. However, many patients are extremely afraid of these injections, resulting in them postponing and even canceling visits to the dentist.

For these patients, an additional step is needed: dentists first give them a topical painkiller to reduce the pain – and associated fear – caused by the needle. This can come in the form of a hydrogel, ointment or sprays; the most common are hydrogels that can contain lidocaine and prilocaine.

In the new study, the researchers investigated a way of getting these topical anesthetics into the body more effectively, to see if they could replace needles altogether. They found that applying a tiny electric current – a process called iontophoresis – made the anesthetics more effective.

The researchers first prepared the anesthetic hydrogels with a polymer to help it stick to the lining of the mouth. They added two anesthetic drugs, prilocaine hydrochloride (PCL) and lidocaine hydrochloride (LCL). They tested the gel on the mouth lining of a pig, applying a tiny electric current to see if it made the anesthetic more effective.

The anesthesia was fast-acting and long-lasting. The electric current made the prilocaine hydrochloride enter the body more effectively; the permeation of the anesthetic through the mouth lining increased 12-fold.

The researchers say the technology has applications not only in dentistry anesthesia, but also in other areas such as cancer treatment.

“Over the last few years, our research group has been working on the development of novel drug delivery systems for the treatment of several skin and eye diseases,” said Prof. Lopez. “The skin and eyes pose challenges for drug delivery, so we have focused on improving drug delivery in these organs using nanotechnology, iontophoresis and sonophoresis, which is permeation using sound waves.”

The researchers now plan to develop an iontophoretic device to use specifically in the mouth and do somepreclinical trials with the system.

The meaning behind “TGBTL”

In the second book of the semi-autobiographical series describing the progress of an Edinburgh medical graduate, Colin Douglas describes his hero, David Campbell’s, involvement with medical research. The book’s title is “The Greatest Breakthrough Since Lunchtime“ and the cynic in me always remembers it when I read headlines like this one

2006 #20

Unobtainiums and electric toothbrushes

Thanks to reestheskin for this.

From The Economist’s book review – The Elements of Power: Gadgets, Guns and the Struggle for a Sustainable Future in the Rare Metal Age. By David Abraham. Yale University Press, 319 pages; $30 and £20.

So remember when you’re prescribing electric toothbrushes just what goes into them and what they cost the earth.

UnknownLIKE this reviewer, many parents will have given their children electric toothbrushes for Christmas, hoping that the sensors that buzz after two minutes will keep them brushing longer than their flimsy elbow grease. Both generations may, however, be ignorant of the fact that in that time the toothbrushes produce more than 62,000 strokes; that the power to generate such motion comes from tiny magnets using three rare metals, neodymium, dysprosium and boron; and that some of these metals are so coveted that in 2010 they were at the centre of a dangerous rift between China and Japan.

In all, an electric toothbrush is made of 35 metals. The journey they take to children’s gums may involve China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Chile, Russia, South Korea, Indonesia, Turkey and other countries too. They are rare, says David Abraham in “The Elements of Power”, a thought- provoking book that follows the trail of these elements, not because they are necessarily scarce or hard to extract. It is because they are used in tiny yet essential quantities—like yeast in a pizza.

In terms of amounts consumed, these metals pale compared with base metals such as aluminium and copper. But, as the book argues, they are no less transformative— and possibly just as valuable—as oil and coal. That is a bold claim, but the author backs it up convincingly. Using vivid detail, he injects life and purpose into the story of elements that are so light, strong, heat- resistant and elusive that an American general in the 1950s quipped that they should be called “unobtainium”.

Indium, part of an iPhone’s screen, is an “invisible link…between the phone and your finger”. Just a pinch of niobium, a soft, granite-grey metal mined mostly in Brazil, greatly strengthens a tonne of steel used in bridges and pipelines. Lithium is so light that it has become essential for rechargeable car-batteries. Dysprosium, as well as making an electric toothbrush whirr, helps power wind turbines. Military technology depends on numerous rare metals. Tungsten, for instance, is crucial for armour-piercing bullets. America’s forthcoming F-35 fighter planes are “flying periodic tables”, Mr Abraham writes.

As with oil, those who can secure the resources have access to immense power. The problem, the book laments, is that China, Japan and South Korea are more keenly aware of the strategic importance of rare metals than Western countries, including the United States.

Yet it is not just the rare metals that the book explores. As Mr Abraham follows their extraction, he finds geologists, refiners, traders, smugglers and boffins whose stories add to the intrigue of this shadowy trade. Deals are done in backrooms by likeable mavericks. One, a New Yorker called Noah Lehrman, is described as “likely the only person in history to perform at the Jewish Grateful DeadFest and advise the US Congress on resource more security”.

“The Elements of Power” turns out to be a critic as well as an advocate of the rare-metals trade. One concern is what the author calls the “long tailpipe” of pollution left in the wake of mining and refining, notwithstanding the role of minor metals in creating greener products.

Supplies are also a worry. In 2010 a Chinese trawler rammed Japanese coastguard vessels in waters near islands called the Senkakus in Japanese and the Diaoyu in Chinese (their ownership is disputed by both countries). After the Chinese captain was detained, supplies of rare metals from the mainland to Japan suspiciously dried up. Though China never acknowledged an export ban, the incident caused rare-metal prices to spike, and unsettled manufacturers around the world. Though Japan quickly released the captain, repercussions of the affair pop up through the book.

Mr Abraham would have done well to use more such central narratives—the story, perhaps, of dysprosium, which has one of the most fascinating and fragile supply chains. Yet he persuasively explains the danger of underestimating a business that, by one estimate, generates $4 billion of revenues a year and also plays a critical role in systems worth about $4 trillion. China, which develops more rare metals than any other country, understands the calculus. The West, his book suggests, does not.

The Monday Morning Quote #351

“The bitterness of poor quality lives on

long after the sweetness of good price is forgotten.”

A companion piece for Ruskin’s quote

Benjamin Franklin

The word polymath hardly does him justice.


2016 #18

Hands-on training for complex dental implant procedures.

vss logo-smA challenge faced by dentists is: How to get hands-on training for complex dental implant procedures on cadaver heads?

Quality trainings are few and hard to find because cadaver heads are not easy to organise.   We have created such a training that we are hosting in Coventry, UK, in March 2016 over a long weekend.

Interested? Visit the link below.


One of the main reasons for failures in treatment is due to inexperienced assistant. Hence, the faculty welcomes you to bring along a dental nurse who will also be trained alongside.

Regards, VSS Academy

P.S. We can order a limited number of cadaver heads only. So book your place right away to avoid disappointment. We allow for only two dentists per cadaver head for optimal practical hands-on experience.

2016 #17

%d bloggers like this: