WORDS: Eliza Lawson
A story, based on a series of hypothetically accurate events…
Sam was very tired as she had been awoken several times during the night by her vomiting child. The child, let's call her Sarah, was small and aged between 2 and 5. She had been getting steadily worse throughout the night and was showing a variety of other symptoms including drowsiness, a fever and was complaining of sore ears. Sam’s partner Bob was in bed asleep as he had been working night shift and was half way through 4 consecutive shifts. Sam and Bob were worried about Sarah but experience as parents had taught them both that their child may have a nasty ‘bug’ or may have picked up something from school or nursery…they weren't the type of people to overreact. After all, children get ill, children are less equipped to explain how they feel and sometimes these things clear themselves up with time, Calpol and cuddles. Sam had had to call work to explain that she wouldn't be able to make it in as there wasn't anyone else to look after Sarah. Sam wouldn't be paid for her day off as she was only 4 months into the job and didn't get paid for time off on the sick.
So Bob and Sam used their existing parental knowledge and gave Sarah the recommended dosage of paracetamol and ibuprofen…and they waited. Bob tried to sleep as he was very tired from night shift leaving Sam to tend to Sarah.
By lunchtime Sarah was worse. She hadn't been able to keep any fluid down, her temperature was rising and she had developed a small rash on her hot arms… Sam decided it was time to call the doctors.
“Hello, you're through to your local over stretched, under funded NHS health centre. For repeat prescriptions aka an answering machine, press one, to speak to an exhausted receptionist press two.”
“2”………. “You are the 4th person in the queue, please hold.”
Some time later. Approximately 15-20 minutes.
Receptionist *through a muffled yawn “Hello, how can I help?”
Sam “Hello I need to make an appointment for my daughter Sarah.”
Receptionist “Oh do you now…well there isn't an appointment for 5days, the alternative is to call back first thing in the morning at 8.30am and we can allocate her an emergency appointment. But let's be honest, the line will essentially be engaged for the entire morning by which time there will be no appointments left anyway…”
Sam “So you're telling me that I can't make an appointment for my very sick child for 5 days unless it's an emergency, but I can't have an ‘emergency’ until tomorrow?”
Receptionist “Yes” *another muffled yawn
Sam “Ok, but my daughter is really very ill and is showing no signs of improvement. She is only small and I am very worried.”
Receptionist “Well if you are that worried about her then I suggest you take her to your local hospital so she can be seen at accident and emergency…but just so you know your local accident and emergency has been shut down and no longer accepts this kind of patient…your nearest one is 20miles away.
And when you do get there you will be seen according to what the government has deemed ‘priority’…and the doctors and nurses are probably shattered as they have been working 14 hour shifts, are over stretched, are dealing with all the emergency patients within a 40 mile radius and there probably aren't any beds.”
Receptionist “Yeah, so I have a bunch of other people trying to get through that I have to let down and disappoint due to lack of staff, over worked GP’s and increasing demands due to privatization of services and government cuts...what would you like me to do? Do you want to book that appointment? Or you could try your luck in the morning?”
Sam, who was now understandably upset and very frustrated after a night of very little sleep decided to book the appointment anyway…and then chance her luck in the morning. After all, Sarah may improve throughout the rest of the day…and neither her nor Bob had transport up to the hospital anyway. Bob always took the bus to and from work…and they had had to give up the car when Sam had been made redundant a few months ago. They hadn't been able to afford one yet as Sam's wages were only just starting to cover the loss of earnings while she was without work and Bob’s job was a zero hour contract so they couldn't even get one on hire purchase…They certainly didn't have £40 spare for a taxi up to the hospital…and it just didn’t feel right to call an ambulance...
They would have to make do with trying in the morning and just hope their daughter improved.
Sarah did not improve.
Over the next couple of hours Sarah’s temperature had risen further than Sam had ever known, she was constantly throwing up, she was unable to get out of bed, limp and clearly in a lot of pain…and her rash wasn’t getting any better. Sam decided to do the ‘glass test’ where you press a glass against the rash on the skin and hope that the rash becomes less visible? Was that it? Or was it more visible? She was very tired; she was beginning to think she was overreacting.
Bob has now gotten out of bed and is tending to Sam and his very ill daughter.
Bob decided to take control of the situation. He was in a calmer and clearer state of mind and figured that he was in the best position to make the correct analysis of the situation and calm things down.
Sarah was crying again. She was now just reaching as there wasn't any fluid left in her system to come up. Bob picked up his hot and limp daughter and brought her into the bed he shared with Sam. He took off Sarah's pyjamas and used a damp flannel to try and cool her skin down, he opened the window to allow for a draft and settled his daughter enough to be able to leave her for a few minutes.
He then went to the kitchen and made his partner a cup of tea.
“Don’t worry Sam.” Bob said attempting to soothe his exhausted and clearly upset partner… “Sarah has been poorly before. I'm sure she will improve in a while. Why don't we give the doctors another call and tell them the severity of the situation, or at least ask for some advice…?”
“Ok, let's do it. Let's call them back.” Sam felt relieved to have some support and dialled the number for the doctors…
“Hello, you're through to your local over stretched, under funded health centre. For repeat prescriptions aka an answering machine, press one, to speak to an exhausted receptionist press two.”
“2…you are the second person in the queue, please hold”
Some time later.
“Hello, how can I help?.....*YAWN!”
“Hello, my partner called earlier about our daughter Sarah and she really isn't very well at all. I appreciate that there aren't any appointments today and that the doctor is very busy…but I was wondering if you might be able to offer us any advice, things we can do, things we should look out for or things we should be worried about?”
“Well the official government position now is that you…
This is where the story ends. This is not a joke. Our secretary for health actually said this. He opened his mouth and he suggested that parents are medically equipped to be able to distinguish and diagnose the severity of their children's medical conditions via pictures on the internet...Nice one Mr Hunt...maybe a flow chart would be helpful or perhaps a brightly coloured Venn diagram, maybe some sort of online ‘portal’ that does not yet exist…
Jeremy Hunt. You have NO qualifications in health, of any kind. You’re no more qualified to be dishing out ‘health advice’ than someone trying to make money by selling me a shit ‘miracle’ aloe vera detox.
You have literally have NO clinical training whatsoever, you have absolutely no idea what it is even like to work on a hospital ward or within the NHS as no doubt you are able to afford private healthcare. Would you allow for your children or family members to go through this? I doubt very much weather this is something you will EVER experience. Your family lineage alone would suggest that the only time you have set foot in a local GP’s surgery, an NHS hospital or an out-of-hours clinic is for a photo opportunity…You Mr Hunt, are in fact more qualified in tax avoidance, expense swindling, media manipulation and personally financially benefitting from the division and selling off of OUR National Health Service.
HOW DARE YOU.
Your words and actions, however misrepresented, will cost vulnerable people their lives.
Get back in your box and allow the professionals to do their jobs.
Stand down Mr Hunt.
On a very personal level I would like to add something of my own story to this...
Today, 10th February 2016, the day that the junior doctors are striking, I am going into hospital for neurosurgery on my spine.
I am having a procedure done to hopefully fix my stage 3 disc herniation.
This procedure in the states would cost somewhere between $15000 and $30000 depending on how long I was in, which surgeon performed the procedure and how long I needed an operating theatre.
Today I am paying nothing. £0.
I am about to go to one of the best hospitals in the country and as far as western hospitals go this means it's one of the best in the world and receive impeccable treatment, for nothing.
I have endured almost 16 months of chronic and crippling pain and have had to wait a number of months to have my back scanned, a diagnosis and then treatment prescribed and booked.
I am going in, today, in fact I am on my way right now as I type this. I am very lucky that the strike has not affected my appointment today but what I will say is this...
Had I received a letter or telephone call explaining that I would have to rebook, reorganise or reschedule my appointment I would have done it with a smile on my face. If it had meant another month of waiting, I would have done it without a word of complaint.
What is currently happening to our national health service, the people who study 2-3 times as long as teachers and who earn a similar amount of money; people who work 12 hour shifts, for days in a row are having the carpet pulled from directly under them. They are being undermined, undervalued and having the very heart and soul of what our NHS is about slowly destroyed.
I see you junior doctors, I see you and your young family, your impossibly long shifts, your massive student debt, your dictated hours...I see you and I support you. 100%