Some sixty odd years ago I came into this world at roughly the same time as the NHS – good timing or what? Nye Bevan who was a Labour minister at the time thought the NHS to be a wonderful thing to be put in charge of however, when it was suggested that people should pay for their prescriptions, he was all for resigning. Of course, Bevan remained in post and reluctantly accepted that whilst the NHS would provide free healthcare – it could not afford to hand out pills for evermore like sweeties on a Maundy Thursday. Anyone who is of a similar age to myself will understand the reference there but if you don’t then worry not as it has no bearing on what follows, it’s just a bit of a ramble. Now – I was born in Leeds, I know this because my mother was present at the time and she later confirmed that I was born in Hyde Park Terrace which is to the West of the city and not far from the Brudenell Social Club which is now a popular music venue. However, following that inauspicious start in life I was fortunate enough not to have required the services of the NHS again apart from allowing them to deliver my children, administer the occasional tetanus jab, stitch the odd wound and generally advise me to contact my GP. Fortified by the NHS policy of keeping waiting lists long and consultants hours short thereby enabling them to see private, fee paying patients, my mantra became – Look after yourself, you don’t want to end up in hospital!
So imagine how years later, here I am, still fighting fit but having a little bit of bother with the old joints or more specifically, my right knee. I’ve probably over-done it at my Zumba sessions but anyway, my GP (remember him?) sends me for an X-ray and refers me to a consultant (who says men can’t multi-task?) who kindly agrees to see me in about three months time. I eventually meet him and he’s very pleasant however, I can’t help feeling that my presence is putting him out although, to be fair, it’s only 2pm and I doubt whether he’s due to knock off for at least another hour. I do my diplomatic best, I smile each time the consultant gives me that warm, friendly yet serious look that proceeds each potential diagnosis as to the source of my problem. He asks me whether I want an operation which takes me completely by surprise. I ask how it has come to this without actually knowing what is wrong with my knee but he just shrugs and says that I can have one (an operation) if I want one. Flippin’ eck, I think, it’s market-led policies gone mad.
The consultant realising that I’m not a Tory voter then changed tack and suggested that I have a MRI scan instead. This, he assures me, will give a better indication than the humble X-ray image, of what is troubling my knee. Obviously, this meant waiting a further month or so but the time seemed to pass quickly and the actual process was quite pleasant. It was also extremely topical as everyone was talking about the movie, Gravity, and going inside the MRI scanner felt a little bit like being up there in space, well it did to me. Two weeks later and I’m due to see the consultant again who, I hope, will have looked at my scan and be able to tell me what’s going on. I arrived at the hospital reception early and took a seat. The receptionist is keen for me to fill in a questionnaire asking whether I would recommend this particular hospital to my family and friends? I’m not sure that I would although, in an emergency I doubt that the responders who pull up outside your home in their yellow and green painted vehicle with the blue light flashing are likely to ask for the patient’s preferred choice of hospital.
While waiting, I noticed the consultant making his way back to his office or whatever it is consultants call their allocated work spaces. He was probably on his way back from lunch which I can only assume was one of those healthy options with salad and rye bread and not just a plate of chips with curry sauce that you see the auxiliary staff queuing up for at the Costa Packet (unless you’re staff) café in the hospital foyer. Whatever it was, it had certainly put him in a good mood because when I finally got to see the consultant, he was in full blown consulting mode and I was treated to a wonderful display of surgical knowledge that was surprisingly absent at our first meeting. This time, I wasn’t asked whether I wanted an operation, I was told in no uncertain way that I needed to have one. No messing about, straight to the point, you need to have an operation, sign this bit of paper and off you jolly well go or words to that effect. So, I take the bit of paper to another part of the hospital where someone gets me to fill in another few sheets of paper before telling me that they will be in touch. She didn’t actually say when they would be in touch but to be honest, I’m not sure that I wanted to know right at that moment. It’s only now, whilst sitting here writing this stuff that I realise that having a rough idea of when this operation will be taking place would be useful to know. To be continued…