12 Mar Outpatient
I expect everyone has a story of the NHS. I often hear people generalise about how bad it is but, when pushed, have good individual experiences. Headlines, I guess. Touchy territory and I hesitate to write about it – you won’t be able to tell from there but I’m tapping the keyboard very lightly, as if in a whisper. However, since I seem to be spending an inordinate amount of time in hospitals right now it’s front of mind. All minor stuff and the ‘inordinate amount’ results partly from having postponed appointments because of being away earlier in the year. Upshot is there’s now a cluster of them, seemingly once a week. Which is daunting and reminds me rather abruptly of what life was like for my mother latterly and the way she and her coterie of female friends used to talk about how busy they were, days and weeks filled with hospitals, clinics, surgery visits etc. I often wondered if such topics featured in conversations among a group of similarly-aged men.
In any case, it has felt a little like a practice run for later life – well, at least one hopes the ‘later’ is applicable. Some of the appointments are self-inflicted – like the follow-up to the finger dislocation episode. Despite the impressive efforts of the Spanish Urgencias, the finger remains wonky, possibly not fully relocated and certainly not fully functional. I had no idea that the NHS had a Hand Management department. Who’s heard of that? It makes sense, though, given how easy hands are to injure and how essential they are to managing life. I await my consultation there full of hope.
By minor stuff, I mean not urgent, possibly not essential to living a full and active life, but helpfully remedial. A conspiracy of ageing and genetics led recently to some varicose vein treatment; a little local anaesthetic, lasers, foam, techniques you’d scarcely imagine and you’re in and out in under 3 hours. Miraculous. A collision full in the eye with a speeding squash ball 20 years ago requires, in a week or so, cataract treatment. I’m terrified, though everyone says it’s a piece of cake and you don’t feel a thing. We’ll see (hopefully!). Screenings for this and that scatter the calendar throughout the year. All this and I’m not particularly unhealthy nor particularly old.
This batch of healthcare makes me pause and be thankful that I’m being pretty well looked after. It also makes me realise I shouldn’t take it for granted. You sit in a waiting area surrounded by a lot, and I mean a lot, of other people. I suppose, like me, they’re all local but you find yourself wondering where they’ve all come from. Why is it that the population always seems greater on a Saturday at the shops or any weekday in Outpatients? The eye unit, for example, routinely has 50-80 maybe more waiting to be seen. You might moan when you have to wait a while on really uncomfortable seats, or get annoyed when one of the staff calls you ‘dear’, but this eyeful of the weight of numbers that burdens the service is the main message I take away from my morning or afternoon excursion. It gets me thinking: numbers repeated in clinics across the country today. Then tomorrow, as we all get older, the exponential?