My nearest NHS hospital is known locally as a bit of a joke. I am met with shocked expressions and a resounding 'Good Luck' if ever I say I need to visit it. Just two weeks ago, a poor old man was discharged from this hospital with MRSA minus his false teeth. I don't know how a set of false teeth can be misplaced but according to the article, it happens regularly.
Both myself and members of my family have experienced poor treatment at the hands of the NHS and unfortunately, last week I experienced the worst yet.
Here are some brief examples of the shocking treatment myself and my family have experienced within the NHS:
- My Auntie was told she had cancer. Then she was told about a week later that she didn't have cancer, and they'd mixed up her results with someone else's.
- My Dad was told he had 'indigestion'. Turns out it was a blood clot which travelled to his lung and nearly killed him.
- Another Auntie was repeatedly told by her GP there was nothing wrong with her. Eventually it was discovered that she had an advanced stage of colon cancer. Thankfully she is still alive although she could very well have died thanks to her GP.
- It took my GP eight years to diagnose me with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Even though I repeatedly went back to my doctors, I was told there was nothing wrong with me, even though I knew there was.
And finally, most recently, after being told by a Locum GP that she had 'pulled a stomach muscle', my girlfriend had to be rushed to hospital by ambulance (which took 45 minutes to reach us) and was then diagnosed with a urine infection and abdominal cramps.
It was only when we demanded that her files be looked at again, that abnormalities were noticed on her ECG and low oxygen levels were found in her blood. The diagnosis this time was a blood clot in her lung and a likelihood of multiple stomach ulcers. I'm no doctor but even I know that a blood clot is pretty different to abdominal cramps.
I shudder to think what would have happened had we accepted their 'advice' and gone home when we were told to.
A Widespread Issue
It's not just my local hospital that can't tell an XRay from a XBox. According to an article by Dick Vinegar of The Guardian, it took 22 weeks for his local NHS hospital to arrange an operation that his GP had requested, although he does praise the efficiency and speed of the surgery once carried out.
Interestingly, this article from the Wetherby News investigates a recent survey by Gay Equality charity Stonewall which proposes that gay and bisexual men are being let down by the NHS. It highlights shocking statistics about the health of gay and bisexual men, such as 3% of gay men and 5% of bisexual have tried to take their own lives compared to 0.4% of men in general. According to the survey, men reported that their health services "tend to focus solely on their sexual health and HIV status, rather than wider aspects of their health and wellbeing". This is obviously an issue that needs to be addressed by the NHS - it's almost as if the only illness that can afflict a gay man is HIV or an STD.
Although everything I've experienced of the NHS has been negative, but I'm not a serial NHS basher. I do know that the NHS provides an amazing service with hospitals such as Great Ormond Street and hospices making the lives of the terminally ill more comfortable til the very end. I don't doubt the fact that the NHS saves many lives and many people will have had extremely positive experiences with them.
I know Doctors' and Nurses' jobs can't be easy, which won't be helped by the fact that according to this article from Wales Online, out of 1200 staff polled by public trade service union Unison, virtually all said that staffing levels have become "insufficient over the past year as a result of Government spending cuts".
The survey also found that more than 70% of staff in the sector have been the victim of violence or aggression in the workplace, which nobody should have to deal with.
All things taken into account however, I still think I'll be taking out private healthcare insurance as soon as I can to ensure my life is not left up to chance when the time comes.
Image via lydia_shiningbrightly' s Flickr