Wednesday, 8 April 2015

My NHS Experience

Prior to my recent hop operation,my previous spell in hospital courtesy of the NHS was 1972. At that time the ward housed twelve beds down each side. Polished parquet floor, subdued lighting and a general hushed atmosphere of calm. In the centre  of the ward was a desk where the ward sister or her deputy processed any paperwork whilst keeping an eye on the ward. The help lights for every bed was visible from anywhere in the ward and were attended to promptly. There never seemed to be more than  three nurses on the ward at any time but everything was accomplished and they were still able to feed those of us who were laying flat.What a change has taken place  in the intervening years.........

Day 1
Up at 5.30 to shower and shampoo with the disinfectant supplied by the hospital. Did this again last night: freshly laundered towels and bedlinen and clean pyjamas. This morning, new towels and all clean clothes.  Due at hospital 7am.  On arrival join small group all clutching designated requirements waiting for the door to Admissions to be unlocked. Once in I am allocated a bed where I change from my ultra clean clothes into a backless gown.  Identity checked for the second time and wrist bands attached bearing  my name, NHS  number, hospital number and bar code for simple processing hereafter.  A parade of interested parties visit over the next few hours -anaesthetist, surgeon, theatre assistant, physio, catering, pharmacist - each asks my date of birth. Don't they trust the wrist bands? By the time I arrive in the theatre anti-room sometime in the afternoon I have been asked my DOB at lest a dozen time and five or six times I have been  required to verify my signature on a yellow form. They definitely do not wan to operate on the wrong person. To ensure the wrong leg is not chopped up a large arrow has been drawn on the one destined for surgery.In the theatre anti-room someone is looking for a report from haematology. There is a note on my records that a report exists but the content of the report cannot be found. After asking my DOB and confirming that I did really sign the yellow form they ask me about this report. "What did it say?"  to which I respond "I am not a haematologist" I am not reassured by the readiness to commit me to surgery on the basis of my interpretation of a lengthy report I did not understand. However around this time I fall asleep and wake up some hours later in the High Dependency Ward feeling decidedly woozy. Intravenous Morphine makes me nauseous so medication is switched to Paracetamol and Codeine.  Apparently the Non-Steroidal Ant-Inflammatories that were de rigeur twenty years ago are no longer in fashion.
Day 2
Wheeled through the hospital to a recovery ward - six distinct bays of four beds each.. My impression is of an endless flow of nurses, each wheeling a trolley with a laptop on, all looking for someone to do something to. Two of these take blood samples from my A-line . Word gets around that I am game for this and two more attempts are made to take my blood. These I rebut. How much blood do they need?  I am reminded of Anthony Hancock in The Blood Donor. All this activity does not seem to find its way onto my records: After  filling three bottles- 390ml, 400ml and 730ml - a nurse offers me a catheter . I wonder if she is on commission. Perhaps the NHS really has been privatised and staff have to supplement their income by selling treatments. One generous nurse offers to repeat my medication two hours after they have been administered.  I realise I have to keep my wits about me here or I shall end up with a big bill for duplicate drugs.. At some pint in this fuzzy world I am informed that the doctors have decided I need an injection in the belly-button at 8pm - the time apparently is important. At 10pm I am woken for a perfunctory jab in the tummy. and the question Do you want a hot drink? Was that it? What an anti-climax. Where was the doctor in clinical gown, gloves and mask?
Day 3
Not a good day. Despite my request for no more pain-killers I am given Paracetamol, Codeine and Ora Morphine which combine to make me feel very ill.  The day passes. Food has started to appear at regular intervals - three meals a day with snacks between. The game here is that patients place their orders the day before but have moved on by the time they are served and so ones diet is determined by the kosher vegan  who previously inhabited your place. The only thing which really registers is that at 8pm I get another stab in the tummy. Apparently this is to be a daily privilege for the net 28 days.
Day 4
Each shift change a nurse introduces him or herself as the person who will be looking after me. That is the last  I see of them. I now discover a new catering game. Every morning I order brown bread and Marmite from the menu. Throughout my stay  it is never delivered. Variations on toast, marmalade and jam are produced but never what I ordered. For lunch I ordered roast chicken and salad.  I receive vegetable cottage pie apparently because I ordered both hot and cold items. Life is so interesting here. As the anaesthetic clears from my system I am finding the bed uncomfortable but a new person enters my life - the physio. She is tasked with getting me up and about as quickly as possible  - not bed-blockers here!
Day 5
Last night the help bell seemed to be ringing all night.When it sounded at 9.30 I started timing it - 35 minutes before a nurse responded. I hope it was not urgent.  Getting up and waking with a zimmer frame. Exploring the corridors. At the end of our group of mini-wards is a reception area and a staff room for the nurses. When I pass there are six nurses  in there  earnestly discussing-  medical matters  I presume. I am still puzzled by the medication round. This requires a nurse to man-handle two PC laden trolleys - pushing one and pulling the other.  Gentle enquiries reveal that one PC is unreliable but carries more information so the input all data on both machines. Does the system warn against over dosage or incompatible medications? Apparently not. According to the nurse the real benefit of this time consuming system is  not having to decipher doctor's handwriting. Seems rather elaborate to me. John, in the next bed to me, has a complicated drugs regime and every round he has to question the nurse at length to ensure they understand what is required. At 75 it is fortunate he has a sound memory and a forceful manner.
Day 6
Did not sleep  very well. Woke up at 4am soaked in sweat. nurse came and changed me but woke when the drugs round was in progress, now feeling cold.  I addressed my concern to the nurse "Could I have a blanket please? I'm cold" He said he would take my blood pressure etc. When that was done I repeated my request. He laughed and pulled the curtain round my bed. My fourth request was yelled across the ward as he was leaving. "Sorry my friend, I thought you wanted the curtains around" Surely nurses should be able to understand EnglishI am ready to go home now.

Day 7
I go home

This is not a scientifically reseated report; it is just my experiences. They maybe unique. For that reason I have not named the hospital.

I should add that all my contact with the hospital prior to admission was conducted efficiently and cheerfully. Never once through my daily phone calls were any of the staff anything less than helpful.

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