Laugh – otherwise you’ll cry 

The saying “NHS is the envy of the world” must come in the same category as Saatchi and Saatchi’s “world’s favourite airlineslogan for BA .  It was dreamt up as a copy-writer’s slogan, but  taken as truth by a gullible public. And no-one challenged this.

In 1948 this man, Nye Bevan, boasted that the NHS would become “the envy of the world”. At that time few countries had any kind of functioning health service, still less universal free care. Funding healthcare from a universal tax, rather than paid for by the patient, was revolutionary.

But it didn’t take other countries long to catch up, then surpass the UK.  Now we are ‘noted’ for having worst mortality rates in Europe for cancer, and are far down in the world’s lists when it comes to overall health care.

The NHS loves to pour scorn on the US health system, but overlooks how this  operates, and why it is expensive. And the NHS totally ignores France, when most doctors would probably admit the French system is the best.  When I went to France to be treated, even though I was expected to pay, it was worthwhile to get the best cancer care.

Reality today

This last month I’ve waited around to discover if I had a recurrence of cancer (possibly Myeloma) whilst my hero surgery worked hours overtime trying to find where test results had gone. My vague worries had been crystalised by a Press Release from the American Cancer Society   

Reading this sent my nerves into overdrive, compounded by a Visiting medical Professor from Spain, who saw me at the John Radcliffe hospital (JR).  Subjecting me to searching questions, he proceeded to ask “have you had this test? Or that?”  No – but I had had a niggling feeling for months that something was wrong – but couldn’t get anyone to listen. My concerns had been brushed aside, and I had been made to feel foolish for wanting testing.  Yet here was a foreign doctor agreeing with me!

So, supplied with a pile of test request envelopes from this charming Spaniard, our wonderful surgery’s Practice Nurse booked me in for a double session of vampire drill. Then sent off a pile of tests.

At the beginning of September, I woke up to the fact that the tests done in July hadn’t come back.  Panic set in and I bombarded the surgery for results.  The Receptionist was professional and incredibly helpful, and instead of telling me platitudes, set about finding what had happend.

I was so lucky

Previously,  mega-surgeries in London would have brushed me off and told me I would have to wait.  My country surgery braved the JR hospital’s admin. maze and managed to dig out the information for me.  The surgery had had a mammoth task as, reading between the lines, my results had ‘got lost’ in the JR system (no wonder the CQC had marked this hospital down as ‘must improve’).

Late that evening the phone went and the hero Nurse was on the phone.  She had managed to winkle out the most important test results for me – and no, I didn’t have Myeloma.  Hysteria vanished, and then she took time to explain what she had managed to glean.  I calmed down, and as she went through the results a lot of niggles got explained.

Normally the NHS comes up with “calm down” (where do NHS staff learn these patronising phrases?).  But instead she reassured me, and that is the hallmark of real professionalism.  I went to bed reassured that things were back on an even keel.

P.S And woke up to talk of an Election

Not another one!  I dread the musical ministerial chairs that will errupt after another Election.  The job of Secretary of State for Health is often given to a potential challenger to the Prime Minister as it shuts up competition.  e.g.David Cameron successfully side-lined Andrew Lansley that way.  But stand back for a new Minister to come up with yet another ‘transformation plan for the NHS’.

Boris had competition from Matt Hancock and of course Jeremy Hunt.  Remember Hunt’s all-singing, all-dancing, 7-day NHS to be delivered without any extra staff or funds, but simply by bludgeoning junior doctors onto a punitive new contract. If Jezza gets in, what’s the betting he parks Diane Abbott in the Health seat, to make sure she doesn’t challenge him? Frankly, her grasp of figures seems to be appropriate for the way the NHS is currently funded, as shown here



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