I am experiencing up close what when I was young was taught was a horrible evil, “socialised medicine.” I had been having abdominal pain off and on for a while, with it getting more and more serious and lasting longer. Like all men, I procrastinated going to the GP, only to go in for some blood tests on Monday morning. By the evening, I got a very urgent call from the GP that I needed to go to the AE (ER for Americans) because one of my test results was extremely alarming.
I had been to an AE before in the UK with kidney stones and found it very efficient and while waiting like at ERs in the US, a lot less paperwork (as in none) and a lot more willingness to offer choices and keep you quite well informed. The challenge I had though, was that my condition was serious enough (pancreatitis) that they needed to admit me. So this was going to be my first experience in a hospital ward in the NHS. Surely this is where it was going to go horribly wrong, where socialised medicine would fall apart…
It hasn’t, the most challenging thing is it is never fast enough, things that are time critical happen right on time, things that don’t, well they happen when they need to happen, which is never quick enough. I didn’t get up to the ward until just after midnight and everything on the ward is what you would expect. There are 6 beds in my ward and coming up on two days, I am the longest patient in my bay. There are a few private rooms for the more serious cases. I have space for my bed, a private TV, a chair and some storage in addition to all the appropriate sort of hookups.
I needed an ultrasound, and it was ordered first thing in the morning by my Consultant (who was attended by about 4 – 5 other doctors) but it took until 2PM to have it done. In addition they also needed an MRI, which was ordered as well, but that is what is taking a bit longer than is comfortable. It didn’t get done yesterday by the time they closed and the ward nurse is saying it should be sometime this afternoon. This morning, meeting with one of the Registrar doctors (who was part of the pack from yesterday) he explained very well what the process from here on out is. They always seem to do a good job of letting people know what is actually going on with them, which is particularly comforting for me.
They let me start eating last night and the hospital food wasn’t half bad. What you would expect from a canteen. They basically cart in a hot table that has been done in a bigger kitchen and serve up the food hot from just down the hallway. Of course the food is bland and veg have no salt or pepper added, obviously to meet the various dietary needs, but a bit of salt was enough to liven up the veg.
The thing that is still very striking to me is the lack of paperwork on my part. From entering the AE thought to now, the only thing I had to sign was that I had some valuables with me when I got up to the ward and that they were my responsibility, not the hospitals. Not one other form to sign, or fill out, because they don’t have to make sure you can pay or that they have your insurance details.
It isn’t like healthcare is metered as much as it is efficient, only going just as fast as it needs to, in order to be able to respond to those who have an urgent need, and validate that people don’t waste resources, but all the resources you need to have a high quality level of care are there.
So, while basically every Britain will complain about the NHS from time to time, I think really what it, like I read in another article about the NHS from another American, was that they are really complaining about their Royals Royce not going fast enough.