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Wednesday, 18 December 2013 17:02

Thank you NHS, you're wonderful

Written by Mike

Throughout my life I’ve managed to keep away from the medical profession.  It’s not that I’ve got anything against them, it’s just that I’ve always been a fit and healthy guy and I’ve had no need of them.

But now of course I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time split between our local Doctor’s surgery, Milton Keynes General Hospital and the Churchill Hospital in Oxford with a host of different specialists.

Two things strike me about the experience.  The first is the attitude of the various medical professionals and the second is the amount of waste I see going on.  Let’s have a quick look at both.

Real medical professionals

The medical professionals I meet at every level impress me.  They really know their stuff, and they have a terrific way of delivering it.  Respect, deep respect.

I have to say my fellow patients leave much to be desired.  There is a general attitude amongst patients of “I expect to be helped, it’s your job to help me, so get on with it or I’ll complain about you”.  And that message is often delivered aggressively and obnoxiously.  I don’t get how anybody will think they’ll be looked after better by being a complete pain in the neck.  Maybe somebody should spell out they’re in a hospital, not a hotel.

At the extreme, I was woken at 5am one morning in Milton Keynes Hospital by one of my fellow patients shouting and yelling at a nurse to get him a pillow.  When she brought him the pillow, he then started shouting and yelling she was abusing him and he required her to call the police now.  That’s perhaps the extreme I’ve seen, but judging by the dynamic of the situation I wouldn’t say it’s uncommon.

My view of the people within the NHS is one of deep respect.  You know your stuff, and you always deliver it courteously.  Thank you.  Given what I know of NHS working conditions, you really deserve better.


The second thing that strikes me is the waste I see daily, mainly brought on I suspect by poor administration, poor computer systems, or quite possibly both.

A few weeks ago I had a problem with liquid oozing out of my leg.  Not nice.  The practice nurse from the local Doctor’s Surgery came round to our house to dress my leg for me.  (In fact two of them came, the second was in some form of training).  As always, they were charming, professional and clearly knew what they were doing.   In no time at all I’d got a wonder bandage on my leg, and I was delighted.

Job done, the nurses were on their way, leaving behind a huge box full of dressings and bandages.  (And I mean HUGE).  When I asked the obvious question, the answer was we should hang onto it in case we needed any of it again.  And at the same time they ordered me a bed thing to help me sleep better.

Thank you, totally brilliant, but what did that all cost?

The second example is in some ways much more dramatic.  I needed to have a small procedure done where it was felt I should be in hospital for observation the night before.  So I duly arrived on Sunday afternoon for Monday’s procedure.  I was booked in for one night, and I expected to stay one night.

Seven days later (yes, a whole week) I discharged myself – if I hadn’t I think I would have still been there.

The reasoning that got to the situation fascinated me.  Attempt number one at the procedure failed – and it was my fault it did so.  For a variety of reasons a re-attempt at the procedure couldn’t be scheduled for a week.  So they kept me in hospital for a whole week in case they couldn’t get me a bed in a week’s time when I’d need one.  I’ve no idea what the ‘cost’ of a bed for a night is in Milton Keynes Hospital, but I’d speculate it’s not cheap.  I’d also speculate there were many more deserving cases for that bed than me.

Please can I go home now?

There are now so many different departments and professionals involved with my care that if I allowed it, they would have me in one or the other of the hospitals full time.  But I’ve got a life to lead that isn’t centric on hanging around in hospital waiting rooms.  I’m having to learn to question hard the purpose of all the sessions they want, and then politely decline lots of them.

The people of the NHS are wonderful

How do I sum all this rambling thinking up?  Easy.  The people of the NHS are just brilliant.  They care to get the right answers.  They’re courteous and they’re knowledgeable.  They want you to get well.  What more could you ask?

Conversely, the systems of the NHS are a joke.  Considering the amount of money the NHS is spending (£1.2bn of public spending in 2013/14)* surely something can be done to get a handle on attacking the biggest areas of waste?


* If you’re interested in how much the NHS costs and other key data, check out the Nuffield Trust.

Last modified on Wednesday, 18 December 2013 17:09


Mike McCormac has been a photographer since about ten years old.  He's a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, and splits his time between living in Olney in the United Kingdom and a village in the hills near Paphos in Cyprus.

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