First of all, let me say this. Hospitals suck. This isn’t the fault of the frontline medical staff, who are as friendly and helpful as it’s possible to be when you’re working as hard as they are; nor is it the fault of the support staff, who let’s face it, the public rarely see, let alone deal with. Nor is the fault of the administrative staff, who simply do their job as best they can while the tabloids go out of their way to insinuate that the grand institution of the N.H.S is somehow crumbling into ruin and the admins and managers are to blame for all of it. No it is, in fact, the fault of the body of you or a loved one, for doing something weird, and most likely painful, which means you have to visit a strange place filled with people you don’t know while you or someone you care about is in agony. This tends to colour your perception somewhat.
Yesterday I was in Wansbeck General Hospital pretty much all day, while my wife was being poked, prodded, scanned, looked at, mulled over and generally investigated by nurses, doctors, more nurses, other doctors, scanning machine technicians, still other doctors and various other people whose job it is to figure out why your body is broken and how best to fix it. My wife was in agony with a chest pain and having had heart difficulties in the past, as well as a leaking heart valve in the present, this was considered something rather worrisome.
During the prolonged time we were in Accident and Emergency and then the Medical Admissions Unit I had the opportunity to watch at close hand how the staff of the N.H.S. go about their everyday business of saving lives, fixing broken bodies and generally being far more awesome than a lazy word-botherer like myself could ever hope to be. Let me say this to you (whoever you are), the press (as if they would ever notice this very quiet part of the Tubez), the Tory Party who insist the N.H.S. is a white elephant and thoroughly outdated and broken (like they would care, anyhow) and indeed anyone else who happens to drop by. The N.H.S. and the people who work for it are AMAZING.
I watched as – quietly and without fuss – people were sorted according to severity of injury and condition, brought in and treated, made as comfortable as possible under very trying circumstances, moved from one department to another with speed and efficiency, examined by competent and thorough doctors who leave no stone unturned or base uncovered in their determination to get to the bottom of anything mysterious, while being skilled and speedy in their treatment of the obvious injuries and illnesses. I saw nurses and healthcare assistants who were skilled, efficient, courteous and good-humoured despite being absolutely swamped by people needing treatment and care. I saw multiple cleaners and support staff making sure the hospital was as clean and as free of infection sources as such a large public building can be. My wife, who was the reason we were there at all, was given excellent care and always treat with the kindness and understanding a person who’s frightened and in great pain should be afforded. Meanwhile I, as worried relative , despite being little more than a bystander and quite probably a nuisance, was always treated with good-natured compassion and never made to feel like the pain in the backside I no doubt was.
Tracey is still in hospital. The reason for this is that the doctor’s aren’t 100% convinced she’s well enough to come home. Think about that for a second. They’re pretty sure she’s not going to explode into a human fireball if she comes home, yet despite heavy pressure from parliamentary guidelines, budgetary constraints and the general impression of ineptitude, inadequacy and bad management that the N.H.S. is becoming synonymous with in certain quarters, their first and only concern is that my wife doesn’t leave their care until they are absolutely certain that coming home is the best course of action.
All of the above is why the National Health Service remains one of modern Britain’s crowning achievements, why the much maligned (at local level, anyway) Wansbeck General Hospital rocks and why I’m able to spend the time it takes to write this, rather than chewing my nails down to stumps with worry about the woman I love. Because I sit here at home, still worried, but comforted by the fact that my wife is receiving the best possible care.
Dear N.H.S. and staff of Wansbeck General Hospital, you guys are AWESOME!