I love the NHS, it has been *very* good to me over the years.
So this is not intended as NHS-bashing at all. It's purely 'here's my experience of the NHS over the last 48 hours'.
Sunday night: I get really quite sick. Despite having no tonsils (got them out privately due to 18 month waiting list and about 20 bouts of illness around 2007. My job depended on being able to speak) I seemed to have tonsillitis. But it's Sunday, so you tough it out. You definitely don't go to A&E because tehre are all kinds of awful stats about what that is doing to the NHS
Monday morning: 8am - the traditional 'try and get an appointment at the GP' phonecall rush.
This didn't go well.
Yep - that is 109 times I phoned my GP between 8am and 9am trying to get an appointment. Each of those 109 times the line was engaged.
Now, this is because - shock horror- they're busy. But there has got to be a better alternative surely than this frenzy of phonecalls for the indisposed. I've since been advised by friends that you're better to alternate between a landline and a mobile (I know not why) and that this kind of wait is not unusual.
That's fine for the likes of me - I have strep throat and will almost certainly pull through. But if I had a sick child rather than myself with a high temperature, a rash and vomiting - I might very well have been 'that person' who turns up to A&E.
In the modern era could GPs surgeries not have an email triage service rather than relying on an outdated landline phone service? There's nothing scientific to suggest that people who are best at hitting redial are most in need of help. If 24/7 email text accounts were open, receptionists could come in at 7.45 on Monday mornings and contact those most in need with appointment times.
Anyway, I get back from the doctors, laden down with my free-at-the-point-of-delivery prescription, to find a letter from the breast cancer clinic, offering me an appointment at the Vale of Leven hospital at the end of March. That's a good 25 mile drive from where I live. I've seen the same consultant at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley before, 2 miles from where I live.
I think what it is important to say here is that I don't have breast cancer. I never have had breast cancer. However, my mum has had it twice so I am in an early screening programme - which I think is fabulous. Well done NHS.
However, I'm also on a zero-hours contract. If I don't work on March the 24th I don't get paid. As the owner of a car, and someone who can afford to lose a day's pay - I'll go. But my thoughts immediately turned to those who can't afford to do that, or who find the prospect of an appointment so far away so inconvenient they think 'och I'll not bother, it's only screening'. It is only screening, but there's a good reason that people like me are asked to go. We've got to make people go.
The NHS has never been more used by politicians. Everyone loves the NHS - and politicians criticise the obese, the people who go to A&E when they don't need to , the folk who miss appointments. That's all valid, but we should be able to suggest things that make life better for the patients too. The NHS has to exist in the modern world - a 24/7 world, with the internet, zero hours contracts, poverty and yes... illness. Let's not be so scared of criticising the NHS that we no longer offer constructive means of helping it help patients.