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2 July 2022

The Health of the National Health Service (4)

Tag(s): Politics & Economics, Health
I have blogged about the National Health Service on three occasions in 2014, 2018 and 2020.[i] I have pointed out in these blogs that the National Health Service is one of the worst health services in the developed world in terms of proportionate cost and its outcomes. It is unfortunate that our politicians find themselves unable to have an honest debate about the National Health Service and it seems that their judgement is that anyone who stands up to point out that there should be a better way of running a health service is unlikely to get elected. Yet I sense that there may be a change in the popular view of the health service as the sheer number of scandals and the unaffordability of its construction become obvious. The Covid crisis is simply the latest example of that. I find it interesting that in my first two blogs on the subject which predated the Covid crisis I forecast that there would be a problem with a flu epidemic because of the way the health service was organised.

Sweden dealt with the Covid crisis in a separate way from most other European countries. Its level of excess deaths was half that of countries like the UK, Germany and France, thus vindicating its policy of largely carrying on as normal. However, I don’t want to focus this blog exclusively on the recent problems of the Covid crisis. I suspect that we will never find out the true extent of how badly it was dealt with in this country because again the politicians will not be honest enough to have the proper enquiry that is required.

Instead, I want to talk about the NHS from a more personal point of view. It is my general observation that on the whole most people have had reasonably good experiences of the NHS and that is why they tend to favour it despite its unaffordability and the many scandals that have occurred. However, it is my personal experience over the past two or three years that every single time I have had a health situation that needed attention by the NHS they have got it wrong in some way. There has been misdiagnosis, there have been severe delays, there have been poor treatments and indeed on some occasions complete and utter failure. Every single time I have sought private healthcare it has been completely successful with proper care and attention, accurate diagnosis and also a very different attitude.

Last year I was sent for a testing process at a local hospital and the procedure was mismanaged to such a horrible extent that I walked out in disgust. I later had the same procedure done privately and it was calm, relaxed and entirely successful. On another occasion I was sent for a test at another local hospital. At the time the nurse thought the test result was clear, but that had to be confirmed by the laboratory, and I would get the results in due course. Several weeks later I got the results and indeed they were clear. However, in the same letter there was an instruction to the hospital to organise an urgent appointment for me despite the fact that the test results were clear. This appointment was then set for a date when I had another urgent appointment with my own general practitioner which should have been known to them as one assumes that they have access to my medical records. I telephoned to make a new appointment, remember this appointment had been billed as urgent in September and was set for October. The new appointment was set for January so again I called, and I asked two questions. My first question was that I had this test in August, I got the result that it was clear in September but was advised that I had to have an urgent appointment. Could they explain why I needed an urgent appointment when the test was clear. “No “came back the answer. My second question was if I do need an urgent appointment can you tell me why that has been set for January when I was advised this in September. “Yes, I can tell you. That is urgent.”

More recently, following the private medical check-up that I have every year, there was some concern about one particular result, and I was encouraged to discuss this with my GP. I did so and she referred me to a consultant which I booked under private insurance and consequently saw him very soon afterwards. He very soon afterwards booked me in for a procedure that seemed to be largely successful. However, there were some complications that followed this, and he then suggested that in that case I should present myself to A & E. I did so and was then admitted to the local hospital and it is the first time that I have spent a night in hospital since I was seven years old when I had my tonsils out. It was a zoo.

When I was first shown into the ward which had six beds it was empty, and I thought for a moment that I would be on my own. Two other gentlemen were then admitted, and we settled down for the night. However, during the night three more gentlemen were admitted, each involving long conversations between the patient and the nurses and the doctors with lots of shuffling around. There were several nurses outside in the corridor chatting and laughing, sometimes shouting. There was absolutely no difference between the night shift and the day shift in terms of behaviour. On six occasions I got up to close the door, but the nurses always left it open. On one occasion I got up to go to the toilet and a nurse physically pushed past me. None of us could sleep. It was a horrible, horrible experience. But I have another more important observation. There is constant clamour in the media and among politicians that there is a shortage of nurses in the hospital. There is no shortage of  nurses in hospitals as far as my personal experience of this particular hospital is concerned. What there is is a shortage and/or failure of management of these nurses.

Over the three days and two nights that I was in hospital I had to explain my circumstances to 16 different people despite the fact that I had explained it fully to the paramedic who accompanied me in the ambulance to the hospital. She wrote it all down on an iPad and presumably that information was shared but clearly not read or if read not understood.

Understandably from time to time a blood test had to be taken or my blood pressure had to be checked. That I understand. However, I don’t understand why it was that three different nurses in the course of two hours one morning came to take a blood test. Seemingly the second and third were totally unaware that the first had already taken it. I saw many examples of overmanning during my time in hospital. Quite often groups of nurses were just sitting around drinking coffee and chatting not for a few minutes but for very long periods of time. The NHS is unwieldy, over-centralised, one of the largest organisations in the world and totally unmanageable and yet very large numbers of people in it are paid more than a £100,000 per year. What on earth are they doing?

In this blog I have contrasted my experience of the NHS and private practice. I am fortunate that I can afford private medical insurance. But I reckon I pay more than that for the NHS when I consider how much tax I pay and how much of that is misspent on the NHS.
 

[i] The Health of the National Health Service 15th November, 2014 https://davidcpearson.co.uk/blog.cfm?blogID=354
The Health of the National Health Service (2) 2nd February 2018  https://davidcpearson.co.uk/blog.cfm?blogID=552
The Health of the National Health Service (3) 11th July 2020 https://davidcpearson.co.uk/blog.cfm?blogID=679
 




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