Sunday, 2 May 2010

Carry On NHS

I know, I know, it has been ages since I last blogged. A thousand apologies. Last weekend I had every intention of telling you all about the perfect girly weekend in London. On Friday I went to the Porchester Spa (the oldest spa in London, and a wonderful example of Art Deco architecture) with girlfriend number one. On Saturday I went to see the Photography Prize at the Photographers Gallery before hitting the shops to buy a dress for a 60’s themed Birthday Party with girlfriend number two. And, to round it off, on Sunday I was planning to hit Greenwich Market with girlfriend number three, followed with a bit of pot painting. Happy days.
Alas, I never got to Greenwich, because I got sick. In fact, I didn’t even get to wear my new dress last night at said party, as I got really sick. And ended up in the Whittington Hospital for five days.
I’m not telling you this to gain your sympathy (honest) but because my life has been nothing more than having my blood pressure checked, my stomach prodded (yes, it does hurt doctor!) and needles stuck in me for last week. So I have little else to write about. But rather than tell you the ins and outs of my mystery illness, I thought I’d share a few thoughts about that pillar of the Welfare State, the NHS.
The hospital that I have the pleasure of visiting is, if you don’t already know, under threat. The A&E is set to close and a lot of the other services are likely to merge with those of North London’s other main hospitals, the Royal Free and UCLH. This is something I am not particularly happy about. Okay, so geographically speaking, neither hospital is that far away from me. But the Whittington is a lot closer. Factor in London rush-hour traffic, and I pity anyone who has a heart attack and needs to get to a hospital pronto.
Having said that, I have to say the Whittington is probably a little past its sell by date. When I first arrived in Casualty I could swear the room I was put in was once a cupboard. My bed faced a frosted window, and through it I could see cobwebs, grime and the odd pigeon flying up to its nest in the guttering. Okay, so that was on the outside, but I can’t say it filled me with confidence. Maybe it’s just me, but I expect hospitals to be maintained well on the inside and the outside. I’d rather the windows were clean than see fancy pictures on the corridor walls anyway.
The thing I think the NHS forgets is that the people who visit their hospitals are sick. And therefore surely a little bit of effort should be paid towards offering them reassurance and making them feel comfortable. As an outpatient I hate attending my appointments, not just because you never know what they are going to tell you next, but because the waiting room is so dingy, with poor lighting and grim mustard yellow walls that it makes me want to head straight over to psychiatry for a dose of Prozac.
Okay, so giving the place a fresh lick of paint would cost money and there isn’t a lot of that to go round at the moment. But there are some things that can be done to make poorly, lonely and often scared patients feel a little less anxious about their stay in hospital that cost absolutely nothing at all.
Firstly, smile. Say hello. Tell the patient what your name is. Ask them what their name is. Tell them how things work on the ward; where the loo is, when mealtimes are, when visitors are allowed. Explain what you are doing. Tell them what you think might be wrong with them and how it could be treated. LISTEN TO THEM. Hand over to your colleagues what you have learnt about the patient accurately so that they don’t have to explain their symptoms again. Talk to them with a bit of respect – okay, so they might not grasp all the medical jargon straight away but that doesn’t make them stupid. And if they ask a question or for help, don’t fob them off. Tell them you don’t know or you can’t help, and only tell a patient someone will be with them in a minute if that is really the case. That way, your average patient will at least have their mind partly at rest. And, as we all know, a healthy and happy mind will help a body become healthy and happy too.
In my mind, in an ideal world the NHS and all public services would be built from the bottom upwards again, getting rid of the needless deadwood that floats around services and going back to basics. Sure, learn from what we have done before and recycle the bits that work, just get rid of the bits that don’t. And whist you’re at it, why not stick in a bit of training for medical professionals to develop their bedside manner. Don’t get me wrong, there are doctors and nurses who do a fantastic job and treat their patients with the upmost care and attention. But sadly there are also those who are too busy to bother with the anxieties of the people under their care. I know they are often overworked and underpaid, but how hard is it to smile and explain why you are taking a blood sample from someone yet again? I’d argue, not very.
NHS, I salute you. But I’m afraid you don’t get any medals from me yet.


  1. Hi Shelly. Maybe next time you get the need to shed some skin and release your stress, You will consider the Porchester Spa, "Couples session". You decide what a couple is. You your mum, uncle, neighbour or partner, SERIOUSLY RELAXING. Oh and its cheaper. £31.00 per couple..., It is also the only time ladies can have a Shmeisse.Massage
    Be Well Enjoy..... Lee

  2. brilliant absolute magic.Went back for another going over unfortunately Lee has hung up his soapy brush. He kept saying the management wanted to get rid of him ! Sad. Although I went last week and it looks like the entire company running the Spa has been thrown out. strange goings on like a Greek theatre. Place was a tip , disgusting actually. Some strange man offering to soap me over for money. WILL NOT BE RETURNING