Saturday, 20 February 2016

How cool is this?

Not our actual glove, but pretty close - image taken from here
Things in the Dopey household were a little fraught this week.  Wednesday night saw Dope herself become really quite poorly.  I called the NHS on 111 and, to my alarm, they sent an ambulance for her.  Of course, she promptly perked right up, charming the paramedics with smiles and waves.  She bounced and pointed and squealed at everything in the ambulance and the crew empathised with me over the capacity of kids to make their parents look like big fat fibbers.  They could have chastised me for using their valuable time on a child that appeared healthy and well, but they didn’t.  They also didn’t seem to mind that she repeatedly reached for the hazardous sharps bin.  They simply blew up a latex glove and drew a smiley face on it so that she had something safe to play with.

At the hospital Dope was checked and monitored and cooed over.  She was admitted (see, we did need that ambulance!) and I was brought tea, given a bed to rest in and offered food.  A nurse came and good naturedly changed the bedding when Dope peed on it.  She didn’t grumble.  She also didn’t scold me for failing to catch the pee in the sample pot that I was supposed to.  Finally, Dope’s symptoms settled down and we were officially discharged.   

It was a worrying 12 hours but that’s not really what I’ve come here to tell you about today.  Instead, I want to remind us all that the NHS is amazing.  It’s most amazing points being;   

1.       It keeps people alive and healthy...
2.       For free...
3.       No matter who you are*
*There are exceptions for non-residents who pay for their treatment.

How cool is it that we can go to the doctors with niggles?  That we think nothing of getting ourselves checked out, ‘just in case’.  Would we look after ourselves quite so well if we faced a bill at the end of it?  Would we wait that bit longer to be sure that there really was an issue to be checked out?  Or would we wait until payday?   Every such delay would increase the risk of late diagnosis and treatment.  These are worries that we simply don’t consider.  The NHS protects us from those risks and difficult decisions by just being there.  Waiting for us, whenever we’re niggling, for free.

 ‘But the waiting lists!’ I hear you cry.  Yes, these are frustrating.  There are also more serious failings in the system; fatal misdiagnoses, neglect and abuse by staff, cuts taking away services, staff leaving for better pay and conditions elsewhere.  Please let’s not get into a debate about the whys and wherefores of this.  Let’s look at the bigger picture.  These incidences are heartbreaking and newsworthy because we expect MORE from the NHS.  We know they can do better because we normally leave hospitals healthier than we were when we went in.  I think that’s pretty cool.

What’s more, we know that there is a point to complaining because the NHS will respond and make changes.  We could be cynical about their motivations and efficacy in this, but the point is that reviews happen.  They, and we, understand that every life matters and that mistakes can’t just be written off.  Elsewhere, profit driven doctors and clinics take payment and glory for healing patients.  When things don’t go so well, they simply take payment.  The more people they see the more they earn, regardless of outcomes.  NHS staff earn the same regardless of the numbers they treat so individual doctors are driven and measured by quality outcomes for patients rather than quantity of patients for profit.  Again, cool hey?

When my sister in law in Nepal told me she was pregnant I was excited.  Buda not so much.  I chastised him for being a grump and he silenced me by reminding me that in Nepal you don’t celebrate a pregnancy.  You celebrate a birth that leaves both mother and baby alive.  And THAT’s the gift of the NHS.  It allows us to live freely and plan life with little caution.  We know that there is a safety net there for us that will almost certainly protect us.  Can you honestly say that a pregnancy announcement has left you worrying for the life of the mother?  I think this is the coolest point of all.

So people, please take a moment to consider what a gem we have here in the UK.  If you’re so inclined, take this one step further.  See it as a call to action to promote and protect the NHS.  If that’s not for you, just try really hard to imagine life without it.  Remind yourself and others of the freedoms it allows you and never miss an opportunity to highlight just how cool that is.

PS – It’s worth pointing out that neither I, nor anyone else connected to me, works for the NHS.  I just like to give credit where credit is due and to inject a bit of gratitude to areas where we can easily become complacent.