I realize that things can go horribly and disastrously wrong and those to whom it has, will not agree possibly with any of this blog. To them I apologize but for the millions for whom the NHS does not go wrong I write this.
With the NHS in the news so much these days I am re-hashing a blog I wrote six years ago, my feelings remain the same.
I like the NHS. There are many reasons why I should. The obvious, it’s free - when you have travelled to as many countries as I have on the restricted budget (non-existent) that I had, you would understand my appreciation of how good that ‘FREE’ is. No one checking before admission that you can afford treatment, no one checking there is insurance in place before an ambulance will come; oh no – the NHS is splendid. Of course I realize it’s not strictly speaking free, we all pay for it, but it’s like standing orders, less painful if it just goes out of your budget at regular intervals. This is about the hospital strand of the NHS but I’m not down-rating the other branches at all, another time for them.
One if the best things the NHS is good for is scooping one up after accident and emergencies. Slip while out with the dogs; crushed by heart pain; fall off ladders onto fence spikes; suddenly (it actually takes time) develop ‘stones’ anywhere they shouldn’t be; car crash; rugby scrum; mugging or just plain negotiating the stairs on the beam end there is the NHS ready to rush you to safety and healing.
Through the noise, confusion and pain there are constant reassuring voices calling you ‘mate’ and ‘darling’; offering brisk sympathy and promises of ‘we’ll soon have you right’. You desperately cling to those words as you lie on trolleys; are poked; prodded and examined; left for varying whiles as other emergencies come in. Hang onto those words of reassurance as you watch the dizzying swirl of ceiling lights above, changes in temperature from corridor to lift to wards, as your ears and brain struggle to put pictures to strange noises and silences. Hope those words are right as you hear constant murmurs of conversation, over your head, to you, to other specialists. The voices change in volume as they track from person to person. You always know when it’s your turn to talk from this distinct change of tone and you try to smile as you listen to jokes – inane heard so many times before jokes – on people’s names, occupations, working practices, on possible outcomes. Hold close to your mind those words ‘we’ll soon have you right, love’ as you drift through sleep,pain and confusion.
Everyone concerned is a wonder. Everyone gives 100%. Working in general understaffed and coping with a never ending stream of sick and injured people.
The A & E department is the glamour puss of the NHS, the places of TV drama. With quiet patience they deal endlessly with the fearful and the terrified. They take on the chin the endless stream of insults and invective that come from scared patients, their families and friends, the complaints and arguments. They deal with worry and anxiety and listen to the endless frustrations. Everyone, it seems, also walks miles and miles in any one day, it’s exhausting watching them!
No less splendid are all the Outpatient departments, the small clinics of expertise,where the same friendly reassuring voices and faces of concern are there to prop and to steady. The offers of cups of tea, sympathy and tissues. The scans, x-rays, blood tests and examinations, external or internal. They listen to the endless repetitions of patients saying the unoriginal. They give good news, they give bad news, and they are there day after day after day.
In case you think this is an unadulterated hymn of praise I will confess here, no doubt to howls of protest, that I think the food is rotten. There is nothing about hospital food that I like and, even if there have been awards given, I am not impressed. There, I have said so. Maybe I’m just ultra fussy – well yes, I am ultra fussy! I like well, home-cooked meals using the freshest ingredients and served immediately. I cook without need of microwave or ‘ready made’. Hospital food and I will never agree with each other and, as I think good nutrition is half the battle in recovery, I have friends bring me in food.
Over the past sixteen years I have seen a great deal of the NHS (my personal file grows ever fatter) myself, my family and friends. We all grow older and seem to need picking up more often. I know my way around A & E, heart departments, cancer departments, ENT departments, digestive departments, X-ray, Ultra, MRI and CAT scan departments, bone and neurology departments. I have talked to dermatologists, dieticians, social services, been guided by physiotherapists, occupational therapists and many others. Nurses have held my hands so many times. I know about ambulances, volunteer drivers and the endless hours of waiting. I have talked endlessly with tea ladies, snack bar ladies, cleaners and receptionists. I and my own have also been admitted on weekends and after hours - in the early hours of the morning and during sunlight hours. Always the care given is fantastic, reassuring and thankfully received.
Then there are the doctors, those who diagnose, treat, all the thousands of conditions the human body can fall prey too. Working long hours and aware, all to aware of the responsibilities of their jobs, having to make life and death decisions.
We need everyone in the NHS; we do not need politicians trying to meddle. Refusing to listen to the people concerned. In the last months we have needed politicians to listen; to the public and most of all, to listen to the doctors.