There’ve been times, recently, when I have been tempted to write to the local press, denouncing all the frightening adverse publicity about our NHS. They have been absolutely wonderful to my husband. Nothing has been too much trouble. And I cannot fault the dedication and professionalism of the doctors and the staff. But…
My husband has just spent five weeks in our local hospital. He was admitted in January, a victim of the prevalent ‘flu. We have both learned so much.
I’d better tell you that, although I was also suffering, I do not have the complicated medical history that Roy has accumulated over the past twenty-five years. Since arriving in the UK, I have spent about seven years as a Volunteer Advocate for Age Concern. My primary motive was to learn the system, and be able to cope with Roy and his ailments when the time came.
So I know the importance of standing up for a sick person, and pushing continuously for attention.
It has sometimes been quite frustrating, and tiring, but I have always been treated with politeness, sympathy, and a desire to help. Even if I’ve had to issue an occasional firm reminder.
It is getting things done in a reasonable amount of time, which appears to be the stumbling point.
In an emergency, nothing is better than the NHS.
We had one, a year or so ago. I was accompanying Roy along a long hospital passage on the way to a dermatology appointment, when he suddenly collapsed against the wall. A mini heart attack, we learned later. The corridor was deserted, not a wheel chair in sight. I supported him up. Being Roy, he pulled himself together, and leant on my arm. Somehow, slowly, we managed to get to the lift, and reach the department.
“He’s not well,” I told the nurse who was preparing to take a biopsy of a sore on his leg.
Roy told her his symptoms. She knew immediately. She told him it was not advisable to go ahead with the biopsy. We must go home and call the doctor, who would take appropriate action from there, and call an ambulance.
I looked at her in astonishment. It was as if she were reciting a rota. My Advocate’s hat flew onto my head.
“But we’re here, in the hospital, already,” I said. “He’s clearly in need of urgent help. It makes no sense to go home, call the doctor, and then come back here again hours later.”
In my mind I wondered how on earth I was going to get him home, dizzy and confused as he was, struggling to make his eyes see straight. It was a wonder we’d managed to reach dermatology in the first place.
“Stay right here,” said the nurse. And she disappeared.
She returned, a new, relieved expression on her face. “I’ve got clearance from my manager,” she said. “I’ve ordered a wheel-chair. Leave it to me.”
And that nurse – bless her – wheeled Roy off to cardiology, with me struggling to keep up. She had phoned through first. She stayed with us while they took his blood pressure and gave him an ECG and did other procedures. She wheeled him from room to room, carrying his already voluminous file.
But there was a problem. She couldn’t find a doctor to see him. The waiting room was full. Nobody had time to spare.
The nurses went into a huddle.
“The only way we can get him to see a doctor,” she told me, “is to take him to A&E.”
I couldn’t help a little smile.
“I’m taking you,” she said. “I’ll see you’re not pushed into a corner and forgotten.”
And she did. She greeted her fellow nurses, who had already been primed. It was then that I realised these versatile ladies often transferred from department to department within the hospital. They were quite a community.
Roy was taken away for an X-ray. When he came back, she ensured he went into a central cubicle and stayed nearby until a doctor had examined Roy and confirmed that he would be admitted for observation.
Next month, I will tell you another little story about our NHS. I have many.
Meanwhile, I, too, am a person of many parts. Would you like to subscribe to my free Newsletter? Please click on the logo below: