Blind Luck

Great Britain

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The National Health Service was well in place in Britain before I was born. I was an NHS baby, an NHS kid, an NHS adult. In the 1970s the system went into crisis for all the usual reasons – underfunding, mismanagement, endless reorganisations. In the 1990s it went through another one, overloading itself with managers and employing a notoriously bad US computer system that locked doctors out from their own patient files.

But it survived the ageing population and increased patient turnover by hiring from elsewhere. It was actually better than private healthcare, which was expensive and constantly wriggled out of making payments. When my business partner was taken sick he received better medical attention in an NHS hospital.

Now, thanks to Brexit and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, those days have gone. The Little Englanders, mostly elderly Tories in the country’s muddy bits, didn’t want ‘to see black faces in the wards’ and voted out, although I don’t suppose we’ll ever be able to understand how they thought leaving Europe would reduce the number of Nigerian nurses.

Cut to my emergency a few days back. I awoke partially blind and whisked myself off to the A&E department of Moorfield’s Eye Hospital, that venerable old redbrick monstrosity built in 1805 near the UK’s second ugliest place after Cardiff, Old Street Roundabout. I went there once a week right through my childhood to have my eye muscles built up with exercise, but this trip was very different. Unable to see and deeply worried about what was happening to my sight, I was eventually examined by a harassed doctor who said there was a tear occurring in my retina and I was to come back if it worsened.

Unhappy with the idea of a late attempt at remedy over prevention, I visited my optician and he recommended someone private. I still have private cover from years of running my own company, and invoked it now. I was seen that night at 8pm. The doctor told me that if my sight was to be saved I would need to be operated on the very next morning at 7am. He put together a team overnight, I had the op just in time, and am now on the long road to recuperation.

I wonder; if I hadn’t taken the initiative and had left it to the NHS, would I now be blind? I had been part of a patient quota, someone to be seen and signed off to tick a box and keep the turnover looking good. As a direct result of Brexit the UK is now 100,000 nurses short and desperately needs doctors. Paradoxically, those who voted out will be the ones most hurt.

I still believe passionately in the NHS and its staff – but parts of the system have already stopped working. Jeremy Corbyn wants to increase state involvement dramatically in the lives of Britons (at least, we think he does; like all career politicians he survives by being utterly indecisive). But with the country now facing the consequences of David Cameron’s disastrous blunder (why has he not been strung from a lamppost for what he did?) it seems increasingly unlikely that we can get back to a golden age of fast good health for all.

14 comments on “Blind Luck”

  1. Jo W says:

    I hope you haven’t srained your recuperating minces by posting this blog, Chris. Or maybe you have been dictating this to someone,while lying back on a chaise longue,a la Miss Cartland? Hope the recovery goes well and don’t forget to rest! 🙂

  2. Brian Evans says:

    Congratulations Chris, I’m so glad you have been dealt with. But, the rest of your blog is so depressing. I agree with every word, incl Cardiff, though I do rather like Moorfield’s Eye Hospital-I find it a rather good looking building.

    Our Tory voting neighbours (in their seventies) need the NHS a lot, and never stop moaning about it. There have been two meetings at the surgery to liase with patients over the problems, which was very good idea, but of course like all moaners (Why are the” remainers” called moaners when it is the leavers who moan all the time-even when they have got their own way they still keep stamping their tiny little feet with childish tantrums.) they didn’t go to either of them. Our neighbours are the types that have a car each but hardly go out separately, even if at all now, as they are joined at the hip. Naturally, they voted to leave.

    I now find it difficult to talk to them, but do so only because it is best not to fall out with neighbours. My 2 cousins voted to leave, because they are all “coming over here and taking our jobs.” I pointed out to one of them that they both worked in the US in the 70s-“going over there and taking there jobs.” And answer came there none….

    I have not contacted my old school friend who I’ve known since I was 5-we are both 66 now, since he voted to leave And a few other people I know who voted to leave I just don’t want to be bothered with.

    I’m not a bad loser but believe the referendum should be done again, on the basis that it was sold on a pack of lies, and the likes of Boris Johnson should be in prison now for lies he told and the fear he spread. Fariddge, of course, should be strung up from a lamppost along with Cameron. Not only should we have another referendum but no one over 50 should be allowed to vote as it is not their future that is threatened.

    As you say Chris, a lot of the leave voters need the NHS, so the consolation is that I will at least have the pleasure of seeing them suffer. My partner and I (who has just read your missive and agrees with every word) both use the NHS, but we have plenty of money to pay for any private treatment we may require. And if the cost of living goes up and forces up the bank rate interest again-good. It’s all the better for us.

    At least the NHS, even in its present state, is something that most USA citizens can only dream about!

    Well done Chris, and I’m so glad that eye is been saved. You won’t get a better Christmas present. Now, come on and get cracking with the new B & M, as I’ve nearly caught up with you.

  3. Brooke says:

    Thank you for letting us know that you’re recuperating. Rest, please. (You are so right about the USA; we pay 2 to 4 times what you pay for similar case and yet have much worse outcomes.)

  4. Peter Dixon says:

    Glad to hear you are on the mend!

    To a fair extent I think the NHS depends on where you are and who runs the individual department.

    I had a heart attack in the street 15 years ago and was rapidly whisked into hospital in a green ambulance. Hearing a medic say “Just relax Mr Dixon, you’re having a heart attack” was, and is, the most bizarre moment of my life. Six months later I needed stents fitting, and when they failed 4 years ago I had the op within a month. All on the NHS and with no kerfuffle (apart from the fact the op was in January and the operating staff all had freezing cold hands).

    I find the NHS are usually great with emergencies but poor with general customer care – waiting around hours in uncomfortable seating for a consultation or assessment at A&E is beyond annoying, but I’ve heard similar stories from friends who have gone privately.

    Remember that most private ops are done by people who are working or have been trained by the NHS.

  5. Colin says:

    How is Corbyn going to pay for it? He wants to keep triple lock pensions of which the cost is growing being belief and renationalise Royal Mail, Water, trains and more. Also paying student fees. The national debt is costing us a fortune in interest alone. All parties are to blame, not just the Tories. Remember Blair’s wasted a fortune on failed I.T in the NHS

  6. Martin Tolley says:

    Peter – “Just relax you’re having a heart attack…” Is wonderful – I can’t stop laughing. You’ve made my day.
    Good news that you’ve had treatment Mr F. Now YOU relax and get well.

  7. Peter Dixon says:

    Colin, the purpose of government is to provide the best possible situation for ALL of its citizens. This country has immense value but its all tied up in property. We have an economy based on debt backed by unreal property values, but like The Emperor’s New Clothes we aren’t supposed to mention it because an awful lot of older people are tied up in it up to their necks. Do you wonder why there are no more ‘interesting little shops’ on your high street? Its because rents are so high and rates are linked to rental value that would-be entrepreneurs are stifled before they can begin. The National Debt is neither here nor there, the question is whether an economy is serving its citizens rather than penalising them. Pensions are a problem because no government has actually seriously addressed them, leaving them to the next government to sort out. You really can’t, in the 21st century, have governments that last only 5 years that are more than happy to kick over advancements made by the lives and deaths of real people, replacing them with university trained politicos with no experience of life.

    Oops, big rant.

  8. Colin says:

    No problem Peter! Agree with a lot you say.

  9. John Griffin says:

    I won’t give an economics lecture, but relate a real experience.
    My daughter works in a premature baby unit in a senior position. There is no private alternative. There is a lack of equipment, a lack of trained staff, the staff there are grossly overworked, the agency staff are useless and often do nothing while costing a fortune (if they turn up – my daughter and her colleagues have often had to pull double shifts, the second part unpaid), many of the ancillary services like testing have been privatised and some exist only as office doors.
    The mortuary service is run by Carillion. They work 7am – 10pm and if corpses urgently have to be processed out of hours they surcharge the NHS (despite using premises and equipment wholly paid for by the taxpayer). This includes premature baby corpses (many die). They usually have to keep the corpses on the ward in front of parents of other babies or hide them behind the desks. My daughter has had to drive tissue samples on her own time 15 miles to get them tested, despite her hospital being a massive teaching one.
    Until recently they charged staff to park in privatised car parks and fined them if they ran over (e.g. emergencies).
    None of this is due to anything but the political will of predominantly Tory governments (and aided by Blair’s faux-Tory ones).
    My daughter used to vote LibDem. She is now firmly a Corbyn supporter.

  10. Peter Tromans says:

    If a retina is in the process of tearing, it’s not getting better, it’s getting worse!

    Trying to save money by spending a mass of time and money on cost control in a system where most of the costs can be reduced only by stopping the system from doing its job or, eventually, closing down the whole operation… It is lunatic incompetence.

  11. Debra Matheney says:

    Thank goodness you had the surgery. I know several folks who have had torn retinas and received immediate care because of the serious, emergency nature of the situation. There is no excuse for you not receiving immediate care! It really bothers me that such a serious issue was not dealt with then and there.

    Please take care and take the time to heal.

  12. Vivienne says:

    Good luck and get well soon. Hope your input is being dictated and you are resting your eyes.

    I too am an NHS baby and had my life saved by my NHS doctor at 5. Recently have possibly neglected my diet and worked out I was anaemic. Having tested me (and I hadn’t been to the doctor for 10 years) my GP said I was severely anaemic and wondered how I was functioning: I only got tired climbing cliffs! So, although I thought the NHS was in a dire state too, I have just had multiple blood tests, an ECG, chest X-ray, and am due for scans and endoscopy type things imminently. I was amazed this all happened so quickly. I am sorry your NHS man failed you, but am grateful some of it is still functioning.

    Hope you are dictating your

  13. Denise Treadwell says:

    I am sad, but not suprised. I can’t believe you flew with a torn retina. You are my favourite, I love Bryant and May. I too, have had health issues. Have had sudden hearing loss from a throat infection; a nightmare two loads of antibiotics; and now the possibility of hyperbaric therapy if I can get an appointment.

  14. Helen Martin says:

    I was trying to work out the time line and thought you couldn’t possibly have flown with a tearing retina, but if you did I would want the scalp of the doctor who didn’t warn you. Yes, you could have ended up blind.
    I, too experienced the NHS when I developed Bell’s Palsy while on holiday. Lovely people in Guy’s Hospital and I never received a bill, although I expected one.
    Handling emergencies seems to be what national systems do best. My husband has been in and out of hospital three times in the past 6 weeks (mostly in) and while they did a marvelous job of testing and treating what appeared to be the immediate concern they are quite prepared to send him home today to wait for a February appointment with a specialist. I admit that Christmas is not a good time to try seeing a specialist but I don’t think any of them would enjoy the prospect of two months with a catheter. There is no immediate risk, which is why it’s the acceptable route, but I did tell a nurse that I was beginning to understand why there was so much talk of violence against medical staff. The frustration is really devastating. “I’m sorry you feel that way,” was all she could say.

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