Monday, 17 June 2013

The death of the NHS

Google 'let down by the NHS' and you'll be appalled.

Go on. Do it.

You'll see stories of people who died from dehydration, case after case of old people, people with special needs, people with limited understanding and all the other kinds of vulnerable people there are being let down by the NHS.

And, often, let down means 'left to die'.

It goes on and on.

Gay people, bisexual people, mums, kids, the elderly... example after example of the neglect people are enduring as a matter of course. People are slipping through the cracks, going unnoticed, dying in hospital for want of a replacement drip. It's difficult not to feel that people's health is no longer the priority for our National Health Service.

I'm currently fighting my own battle - one that gets progressively more ridiculous as the weeks pass by. Today I went to my GP to discuss my 'options' only to read my consultant's letter. You know, the one that summed up the state of affairs after my botched operation a few weeks ago? The letter shows an appalling lack of interest in my case. She has managed to get the date of my previous operation wrong, my secondary condition wrong and has contradicted her own discharge notes (that she wrote with her own hand before I left hospital) on multiple occasions. She says that I said my pain had diminished prior to surgery. That actually is the diametric OPPOSITE of what I said. My pain has very much not diminished. She said that I was 'exhausted for two weeks prior to the op'. Try 12 MONTHS, you batty old bitch.

She either hasn't listened, hasn't heard, hasn't consulted my files or she's entirely fucking mental. She initially refused to see me until mid-August until, as she puts it in this letter, 'the patient is managing their condition  better'.

Um, what?

My GP said that 'consultants are often very busy and have a lot of patients to see and this is probably why the letter doesn't correspond exactly with what you think was said.'

Yeah, that'll be it. Clearly. I'm sure it'll be my fault somewhere along the line.

"I'm going to lodge a formal complaint. This treatment is appalling. Absolutely appalling."

This sentence seemed to galvanise some action.

The GP asked me to give her a week to get an earlier appointment with mad consultant. At which point I can, apparently, ask that she transfers my case to another consultant. I reluctantly agree. It's worth noting that I have phoned the consultant three times already to try and get an earlier appointment, only to be soundly denied (through her secretary - she didn't want the bother of actually speaking to me).

I left the GP's office in tears. Again. Tears of frustration and tears of fear that I will get no relief from this condition.

I have just received a phone call from my GP. Magically the consultant has shifted my appointment forward by two months. Instead of waiting till mid-August, I'm now seeing the consultant next Tuesday.

How appropriate. See you next Tuesday indeed.

And yes, I do bang on about this, I know.

But it's becoming a much wider reaching worry of mine. I am absolutely appalled at my treatment for my own sake. Of course I am. Who wouldn't be? No one wants to live with a chronic, debilitating, embarrassing condition that severely affects their life.

But how much worse would this be if I wasn't able to fight my corner? What if I was completely alone? Frail? Vulnerable? Had learning difficulties? Elderly and confused? Or otherwise unable to invest my time, emotional energy and not inconsiderable amount of experience with the NHS to further my cause? Because I'm already exhausted from working two jobs and trying to deal with the pain and symptoms on a daily basis. The last thing I need is to have to take on the NHS in some big old battle to actually receive any treatment. But I will.

But what if I couldn't?

If it's this difficult to get treatment for a common, already diagnosed (on multiple occasions now) condition, how much worse it must be for those with a condition that doesn't tick any easy boxes or fit into convenient half hour surgery time slots? Or someone who has no experience of the system at all and accepts the first diagnosis they may get, even if it's clearly negating their plight?

I'm lucky. I have support and advice and, if push comes to shove, I will find the money to go private. A lot of other people aren't so lucky. And it is really, really disturbing.

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