I’ve been brewing this post for a looooong while. Sitting on it until I felt I knew more clearly what I wanted to write about. This is personal. And it is political. And it is current. We are living in the middle of the consequences of austerity. And we are hanging on to the remains of what have always (in my lifetime) been pretty excellent healthcare experiences.
Standing in A&E with my twelve year old on a trolley two weeks ago brought much into sharp focus. The relief of being able to access a free at the point of delivery healthcare system. The frustration of those in the next room, some waiting nine to ten hours to even be seen by a nurse or doctor. The fear of adding up what this visit would already have cost us as a family were the NHS no longer. The anger of a friend explaining how it is to work in the NHS in 2017.
As a child and teenager I was fairly typical in getting into scrapes and incidents that left me with minor bumps, bruises and the occasional sprain or tiny fracture. I thankfully never had an overnight stay in hospital or the need for a plaster cast on a broken part of my body. I utilised healthcare services as needed – usually via my GP and dentist, along with the very occasional trip to A&E’s minor injuries.
As a teenager, I developed significant problems with my knees. A few years of playing vast amounts of netball and tennis on tarmac and hockey on astroturf brought to the fore a biomechanical issue that had always been present but never a problem. Suddenly it was a huge problem that was causing me fairly constant pain.
I was fortunate to be able to access additional medical care through my Dad’s private health insurance provided as part of his job. Even back then in the mid 80s, it granted me faster access to assessments and treatment. As an adult, these problems have been ongoing and lately have caused me to request additional care through the NHS. This has been provided more quickly than expected and to a good level, considering it is an ongoing, non life threatening issue.
In the last three years, two of our girls have had need of surgical intervention along with before and after care from the NHS locally.
Three years ago next week, Happy Dreamer had a fall that resulted in a pretty grim fracture that has given her an awesome xray to show off! Three years on she has regained full motor and sensory function of her arm and hand. Considering she was admitted with no pulse and little sensation in her arm and hand, I think we can call that a success.
Once through A&E triage and with Xrays on board, Happy Dreamer’s care was incredible. She was in emergency surgery within approximately four hours of her accident, which saved her arm. Her complete fracture had put her lower arm and hand at risk. We had excellent care in our local hospital from the moment she was admitted until she was discharged from the outpatient fracture clinic six months later. Her surgeon was amazing. The doctors were amazing. The nurses were amazing, going above and beyond, especially once she was coming in as an outpatient.
Two weeks ago Big Girl severely dislocated and fractured her patella. It was sudden and traumatic. At twelve years old it is a shocking injury. Again, we have had incredible care through our local hospital and this week we go to the regional specialist children’s hospital for her to have surgery to repair the damage.
Big Girl was taken to our local hospital in an ambulance, provided with entenox from when the ambulance picked her up until she was admitted to the children’s ward around seven hours later. She had A&E care, morphine, xrays, a leg splint, food and drink, an inpatient bed overnight with additional medication. She was seen by the on-call surgical team. She had a CT scan the following day.
We started to add up approximate costings but had to stop when it became an upsetting amount.
We are not wealthy. We have chosen a path for our family that does not include highly paid employment. That is absolutely our choice. If healthcare were not free at the point of delivery, we would be having to make choices around pulling the equity out of our house in order to give our daughter the chance to walk indepedently for the rest of her hopefully long life.
My Mum received the most amazing care during her long illness, in a number of hospitals and clinics and at home. The NHS staff who treated her at home and the hospice staff who took care of her when she was dying did so with the utmost care and gave her dignity until the end. They took the weight off my Dad and enabled him to just be the man she loved.
I worked in the NHS for seventeen years. I loved my job. I worked with the most wonderful people, across a wide range of disciplines.
In that time I don’t remember meeting anyone who was in it for the money. No one.
I don’t remember many folk who arrived and left on time and didn’t ever take any work home.
I have friends who are still working in the NHS despairing over what this government is doing to our NHS.
My local NHS Trust has many problems, but our recent encounter with them has been outstanding. Folk doing their level best in an increasingly difficult environment. Who are committed to providing the highest levels of care that they are able. Who do so knowing that they will sometimes encounter frustrated and angry patients and families.
I am so very proud of our NHS.
I am so proud that our nation’s primary healthcare system continues to be a universal, comprehensive and free at the point of delivery model.
I am so thankful for the care we have received when our family has needed it.
I am so concerned about the future of our NHS.
But for now, we will go to Alder Hey next week. Because for now, we can.