Thursday, January 24, 2008


I paid a visit to UCH yesterday to undergo some tests. I've had some unusual pains recently and after a visit to my GP was referred to the hospital. I have two fears - that the tests will either show up something serious or that the tests will show up precisely nothing and I will be left with the realisation that it is all in my head. That I am stressed or anxious or exhausted and allowing this to affect my physical health. I realised whilst I was waiting for the scan that I was worrying about catching something worse from the hospital, that I was concerned about the lack of sanitizer to clean my hands, that all the doors had handles which must be touched rather than just lent against, that there was lumps of dust and clumps of hair all over the corridors, that the place smelt (and not of disinfectant) and that I could not understand the nurse as English was not his first language.

The nurse showed me to the room and then left. It was dark. I didn't know what to do so I put my bag on the chair and took off my coat. A doctor came in. She didn't check my name. She said to get onto the bed and to take my scarf off because I might get hot. I started to wonder what she was going to do to make me so hot that I would be glad that I had taken me scarf off. She didn't elaborate but started doing the scan. "It's a good job that you're skinny" she said, putting cold gel on my stomach and peering at her computer imaging screen. "Too many fat people wonder why it takes so long. How am I supposed to scan properly through all that fat". Once it was over I asked if she could see on the computer what had happened to my other appointment. She couldn't tell as there was no proper centralised record. Instead she directed me to another department where the other scan would take place. After walking along miles of grubby corridors with no hand cleanser in sight I found where I was meant to be. A very tall receptionist wearing her handbag was sat behind the desk. I wondered whether NHS cuts meant that they now had to wear their handbags as there were no lockers. I explained I was still waiting to hear in regards to an appointment date. She responded that there was a 500 patient backlog and no staff to process the appointments. I sat down whilst she went to find out about my appointment. They have never heard of privacy as the entire conversation relating to the nature of the scan was conducted infront of all the other people sitting waiting. After a few minutes she returned and offered me an appointment for Thursday afternoon of the same week. There are free appointments but not enough staff to process the forms to allocate patients to those appointments. The back-log must be getting larger everyday. No wonder the official figures say that there is a 14 week waiting list for such scans - perhaps if they employed some admin staff they would be able to reduce this dramatically.

Not for the first time, I wished that I still had my private health insurance which I had enjoyed as a perk of my previous job and which had allowed for me to have my impacted wisdom teeth removed in a private hospital which was beautifully clean. Not for the first time, I considered the NHS hospital, where non-smoking rules mean that in order to get into the front door one has to walk past a line of patients in their hospital gowns attached to drips/monitors and so on, pale and yellowish, smoking outside the front door of the hospital which fronts directly onto a busy A road, the most polluted road in London. Not for the first time, I thought of my friends that are doctors and nurses and must come to places like these every day to work.


James said...

Hospitals really are the pits sometimes. I generally find most of the staff very nice to speak too, but the organisation can certainly leave a lot to be desired.

Fortunately for the last few years I've had private cover, although circumstances may mean switching back to NHS soon.

Most importantly though I hope all the tests come back okay. I guess in a strange way the best result is a very very minor problem which can be corrected with minimal effort. Thereby you have nothing seriously wrong and also you don't have to question your own sanity and lifestyle.

lain said...

Firstly, I hope everything is alright with you and the scans come back without any problems.

Secondly, as you know I work for a company that sells to the NHS. I have been a rep selling to NHS nurses, and I have attended our nurse panels. Pervading throughout the organisation is a growing sense of anger - these are specialist nurses who are being made to go back onto the wards because other nursing staff have been made redundant. Nursing is a vocation and they feel like they are being taken advantage of. Nobody has any time to do everything expected of them, many have to apply and re-apply for their jobs. The whole organisation is in crisis and it is bloody scary. What is even more scary is that nobody knows how it can be put right.

Rachel said...

My results were the best of the bad news so at least I am not going mad.

My second visit was even more shambolic than the first. An hour and a half wait for appointment and was only informed of the delay when I asked.