Wednesday, 19 October 2011


I love that phrase socialised medicine. It had never impinged on my consciousness until all that fuss in the States about Obama's plans for medical reform. I think that socialised medicine in the UK -otherwise known as the National Health Service (NHS) was the greatest creation of the post-war Labour government. Free health care treatment for all funded by taxation. Health care not dependent on ability to pay. We are a society so why shouldn't those who have help those who have not? Why shouldn't we care for the weak and the vulnerable?

All of which is leading towards an anecdote of my recent NHS experiences.

A couple of months ago my dentist took an X-ray of my mouth and found some kind of black hole inside my jaw and she referred me to the Sunderland Royal Hospital for further investigation. Several weeks later (last Thursday to be precise) I turned up for my appointment and was duly X-rayed again (twice) and had a consultation with a doctor. The result of this was the decision that samples would be taken of tissue and bone (a minor operation involving local anaesthetic) which would take place in 4-6 weeks time. This would involved cutting and stitching and some discomfort for me later on. I suspected this to be an understatement but I'm phlegmatic about these things and didn't let it bother me.

Imagine my surprise when the following day I received a phone call from the hospital to say that a slot had appeared and they could fit me in the following Wednesday (today). Susan was somewhat apprehensive as she suspected the real reason was that it could be serious. I pooh-poohed that idea though I did begin to wonder. We were both wrong: as it would only be a short operation, when a time slot for that length appeared I actually was the next person in line.

So I turned up today at one o'clock, was taken to an empty room where my details were checked, my blood pressure and temperature taken and told I was the last of four this afternoon so there would be a wait and I was left alone. I did have the new Terry Pratchett book with me which I got out and started to read. For a time I went into a light doze. I used the toilet twice. Finally after a couple of hours, a nurse came in and told me to strip and put on a gown as the person before me was having her operation.

About twenty minutes later the young surgeon came in, shook hands, and explained that they wouldn't be going ahead today.

He'd only just looked at my x-rays and had decided there wasn't enough information to take the risk (the site was close to a nerve which, if damaged, could paralyse my jaw). Also he suspected that the black hole was something very minor which didn't need attention. However, to determine this or not I would have to have a CT scan in the near future before deciding what to do.

Fine. I wasn't disappointed despite having waited over three hours as I wasn't really looking forward to having my gum cut open and then stitched back shut. I rang Susan who came and took me home.

If I'd had to pay for the privilege of waiting three hours in the hospital I'd really have been pissed off. I heart socialised medicine. Socialised medicine (and the NHS) rule.

No comments: