Health: Stitch me up, nurse
Jeremy Laurance is a writer on health issues. He is former health editor of The Independent and the i and has covered the specialism for more than 20 years. He thinks the harm medicine does is under-appreciated, the harm it prevents over-rated, and that cycling works better than most drugs. He was named Specialist Journalist of the Year in the 2011 British Press Awards.
Thursday 25 November 1999
The most striking change in that time - to my semi-professional eye - was the growth of defensive medicine. I was overwhelmed by the generosity of the NHS.
At the reception desk three people busied themselves with filing, tapping at their computers and making telephone calls. I waited, ignored. Eventually I was offered an X-ray to check for glass fragments, a local anaesthetic, antibiotics and painkillers. I turned them all down and said, trying not to sound ungrateful, that if they could just stitch me up, that would be fine.
One of the nurses congratulated me. "Well done for saving the NHS money," she said.
My motives were in fact entirely selfish. I refused the X-ray because I thought it would keep me waiting twice as long. I guessed the anaesthetic would cause as much pain as it would save. Antibiotics make me feel rotten, and anyhow we shouldn't be adding to the global antibiotic soup in which we are all now bathed. And I turned down the painkillers because I was not in pain.
I wonder how much I saved. Multiplied several million times, those four items add up to a lot of cash for an uncertain health gain. So why not, instead of ordering these measures for every patient, promise that every X-ray refused, every antibiotic saved, will go towards a Christmas bonus for casualty receptionists who muster a sympathetic smile?
Game of Thrones
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Huawei Mate S and Huawei Watch: new products take on iPhone 6 Plus and Apple Watch
- 2 More than 11,000 Icelanders offer to house Syrian refugees to help European crisis
- 3 If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
- 4 Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
- 5 Make your voice heard: Sign The Independent's petition to welcome refugees
The real reason Eddie Redmayne was cast as a trans woman in The Danish Girl
JK Rowling announces Harry Potter's son is starting at Hogwarts
Idris Elba is ‘too street’ to play 007, says James Bond author
Photographer fights ginger discrimination with vivid portraits of redheads
Akram Khan: Choreographer says dance is 'as important as maths and being a doctor'
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up