Posts Tagged ‘a+e’


The Ouroboros

With a majority of people in Lancashire County supportive of a severe “circuit breaker” shutdown to protect us against this second wave of Covid, and a majority of our local members of parliament opposing it, we are left wondering at their strategy, also – it has to be said – the common sense of those still cramming the boozers. But this piece has nothing to do with Covid, and only peripherally to do with politics. What it has to do with mainly, is the National Health Service and the determination of its professionals to keep going when everything is stacked against them. And it has to do with my work in progress, “Winter on the Hill”.

We’re nearing the end of that story now, perhaps both stories, and the protagonist, Rick, is looking for his punch-line. Where did he begin? What has he learned, and how has he changed? As a Lefty activist, he struggled with the scale of the rout in last year’s election (was it really only last year?), that is until he met Big Al and rediscovered the transcendent perspective attainable only from walking up a hill, and making love to a lusty woman. Suddenly he’s not political any more. He’s shed it like and old skin.

There, amid the mists and the snows and the winds, in the company of a crusty old walking group, he’s buried his anger, geared up and chilled out. Thereafter, he has followed the remarkable shenanigans of the UK response to the pandemic with bemusement. He has shrugged, tied on his boots and gone up another hill. He hasn’t once said “I told you so” or “you can’t run a country on lies and bluster” or “doesn’t surprise me in the least.” Rick has other things on his mind – and not just Big Al. He has become, dare I say,… philosophical? I’m not saying he doesn’t care any more, just that he’s not angry.

The moral I’m groping for I suppose, through Rick, is there’s a season for the political Left, but this isn’t it. That boat has definitely sailed. This is winter on the hill and there’s not a lot they can do about it. Anyone seriously of the left, like Rick, isn’t going to come anywhere near influencing policy for a very long time, so he might as well assume the transcendent perspective, enjoy his hills, to say nothing of the ample pleasures of Big Al, and stay the hell out of it.

Except, as I was coming to this conclusion on Monday night, tapping towards it on the keyboard, I experienced a firework display. It wasn’t a real one – more a display of lights in my eyes that would have been impressive had it not been so worrying, and no it was nothing to do with a revelation regarding the direction of the story. The lights went on all evening, and in the morning I woke to a fat black spot in my vision. Worst case scenario, a detached retina.

So I went to my local A+E department at Chorley in state of panic and dejection. But I’d forgotten how, after a long and plucky struggle, Chorley lost its A+E department earlier this year. I remembered too late those protesters stood out in all weathers with their “Save our A+E” and “honk if you agree” signs. And even though I’d honked in enthusiastic support every morning on my way to work the trust in charge shut it anyway. Clearly it takes more than honking horns to save our NHS. It takes people like Rick.

I was familiar with Chorley A+E, and grateful when on a number of occasions it had variously glued the heads and reinserted the teeth of my children. And now here I am in need of expert advice myself, and it’s,.. well,… not there any more. It’s been replaced by an urgent care centre where you can walk in, and they’ll sort out what they can, but they’re short on specialized departments they can wheel you off to – like an eye clinic for example. For that you have to drive another forty minutes in heavy traffic to the other side of Preston.

So, I felt like a fool, but the staff at Chorley were lovely, welcomed me into their bosom. The doctor who saw me was a pleasant softly spoken guy, and after telling me there wasn’t much they could do, he contacted the Preston eye clinic, who rang me straight back and told me to get down to my local Specsavers pronto for an examination. Specsavers?

So, then I’m in Specsavers, and the girl’s dilating my pupil and peering inside, and after a lot of reassurances she gives it a name – Posterior Vitrious Detatchment. This is common in speccy-four-eyes like me – especially ageing ones – though she was far too nice to say “ageing”. Downside, yes, I’ve got a new and quite prominent and permanent floater in my eye to make friends with, but the upside is it’s not a detached retina, which would have been bad. Really, really bad.

These reassurances come to me thanks to a highly trained and professional expertise, which struggled a bit with cutbacks but still formed a robust network of competent and respectful support, all of which cost me absolutely nothing – well except for a small contribution from my earnings every month, so every single one of us in the UK can benefit from that same scientifically based, high standard of medical care – albeit somewhat stretched right now. Yes, Specsavers is a private company, but the NHS footed the bill.

In America, politicians of the right denigrate this kind of thing. They call it “Socialized Medicine”, Socialized being a word not that far removed from “Socialism” which, to them, is as near as makes no difference to actual – you know – whisper the word: “Communism”, which places you in the Gulag. So don’t mention socialized medicine, right? but make sure you have your credit card on you at all times in case you’re caught up in a medical emergency and need some competent help.

So, my message to Rick now, up there on his hill, still trying to see above the fray and refusing to swear at the TV news any more, is I’m no longer of a mind to let him have his peace and quiet. Instead, I want to tell him look mate, I understand you had a kicking last year, and you’ve lost your mojo, but we need you back. Chorley wants its A+E. But I’ve a feeling the great British public, ever ready to vote against their interests, won’t even notice the NHS has gone until the ambulance man turns up with a credit card reader and tells you, while you’re lying there with your leg hanging off, to swipe before he’ll allow you on board. And by then it’s too late.

I don’t remember the names of all those who helped me out this week, but I thank every one of you. As for the future of our NHS, well, we can all see where it’s going and it’s not looking good, but I tell you what,… I’ll hike up there into the mists and have a word with Rick, see what he can do. But I warn you, he’s not really in the mood right now.

Graeme out.

[Header Pic? Sorry, you’ll have to read the story. But don’t worry,  just like the NHS, it won’t cost you anything.]

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ambulance7-240x181I wonder how much we take our National Health Service for granted? Recently, I fell foul of a minor ear infection, so,.. phone call to my GP’s surgery, appointment that same evening, bottle of drops on prescription, infection gone in a few days. No work-days lost to feeling ill and with an ear the size of a balloon, like last time when I left it too late. Success? Well yes, absolutely, minor treatable ailments are dealt with efficiently and mostly for free, but things are far from rosy with the NHS.

I had another brush with it over the Easter weekend, this time not so positive, accompanying someone suffering from sudden and severe stomach pains to the A+E department. There being no GP cover over the weekend, I tried the national 111 service for advice, only to find it permanently engaged – not what you want when someone is writhing in agony beside you. I tried several times, concluded the service was useless. So I tried NHS online instead which took me through a question and answer of the symptoms and it said we should go to A+E, so off we went.

At A+E I discovered an overpressed and hopelessly outnumbered staff, holding at bay a waiting room of walking wounded – the limping, the swollen, the bleeding, the moaning, the coughing and the wheezing,… you can imagine.

Two hours of abdominal agony later, while buttock shuffling on bum numbing hard plastic chairs, an apologetic nurse explained the average waiting time was now six hours. This was not the wait for treatment, not the wait for my companion to be told he had a burst appendix, or reassured it was only trapped wind. This was the wait for assessment, for prioritisation, for triage. The wait for actual treatment could be another six hours. It was by then four pm and the system had collapsed. My companion’s face fell open in disbelief. How could he wait that long and in such pain? Well, we had no choice.

Upon hearing this news half the room cleared, suggesting many who use A+E departments don’t really need to be there, but that’s another story. My companion insisted he was in need of medical attention, and I didn’t blame him, so we held on. By now a softer seat had been vacated, allowing a more comfortable slump into semi-comatose agony. In the opposite corner sat a man who had been hit in the face with a three by two, literally quite a bruiser, beside him another with his arm in a make-shift sling after breaking up a separate bout of fisticuffs. They swapped stories with ribald humour. In the hallway stood a convict handcuffed to a Prison Officer.

Time passed. No names were called. I wondered if there’d been a terrible accident somewhere, a mass shooting, a massive motorway pile-up to bring on such a crisis. But it was just a regular Easter Saturday in A+E with no staff. A possible twelve hour wait? I wondered what state I would be in by six am tomorrow morning, let alone my ailing companion. Would his wait for an examination be shortened if he collapsed unconscious, rolled onto the floor? Dare I suggest it? Would anyone even notice?

He did not collapse. We waited another hour, then my companion began to feel a little better, well enough at least to walk slowly to the reception desk. There he withdrew his name and we went home, either to recover more comfortably in bed, he said, or die there in peace. I’m glad to report he was pretty much recovered by morning.

Most of us, fortunately, do not spend much time in hospitals and are therefore shielded from the current state of the A+E crisis. It’s plain they are cash starved, undermanned and struggling, being readied for privatisation. Given the overarching plutocratic trend in western politics, this seems inevitable, perhaps even overdue. Perhaps an Easter Saturday in A+E paints an exaggerated picture, but I am left with the indelible impression it may already be too late to do anything about it.

My children will leave university with £40,000 of debt, virtue of another crisis, and they will inherit a national healthcare system in such turmoil as to be useless to the point that even the evil of privatisation, of healthcare for profit, will seem the only viable solution to its ills. Our country is actually very wealthy, about 7.2 trillion according to the office for national statistics, and growing so it puzzles me the constant harking on about how much we have to cut pubic funding in order to save our skins, and how the vast majority of us are a lot worse off than we were. The middle classes are disappearing with the outsourcing of their traditional jobs, and the working class is losing its safety net while the moneyed minority pocket the nation’s wealth and drive about in motor cars worth more than my retirement pot. It gives one pause.

Driving to work this morning there was a car spun off the motorway, landing on its roof, an ordinary family saloon, glass everywhere. A little distance away was a bent Mercedes of the swanky company executive variety. A haze of blue lights surrounded them in a pouring rain that was streaked with snow – a bad morning for an accident. An ambulance made its way through traffic, doing its best against an ebbing tide. Pray God I thought, we never reach the stage were the paramedics want a swipe of your plastic first before they’ll touch you, and where the guy in the Mercedes gets priority because he has a gold health card in his wallet. Then I remembered the despair of an overwhelmed A+E on Saturday and hoped they were more fully staffed this morning. Rich or poor, when crisis hits, we all need the NHS.

So do be careful out there because the last thing you need in the current climate is to end up in A+E.

[Update May 2016 – the A+E department closed a few weeks after I wrote this. There is currently no indication when or if it will ever open again.]

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