i Editor's Letter: In the Waiting Room

 

 

The queue in Accident & Emergency yesterday morning was mercifully short; little sign of the drunks and cranks who populate its beds in the early hours of a Sunday. My loved one was treated quickly and kindly: her ankle  X-rayed and the sprain strapped up, leaving her to hop out on crutches after an hour. The doctor’s next patients – a young restless guy in headphones bouncing around the waiting room while his girlfriend watched, concerned, and a woman who’d broken her hand punching a wall – looked trickier customers.

I hate being in hospitals. Too many broken humans, reminding us of the occasional fragility of our existence. To anyone who feels similarly, well, we’re going to hear a lot about hospitals this week, on at least three fronts.

First, the end of the “Liverpool Care Pathway” (denounced by its critics as the pathway to death), the countrywide system of doctors removing treatment (feeding, fluids) from the terminally ill to ease their pain and bring dignity to the last hours of people’s lives. Doctors overwhelmingly support it – nine out of 10 would choose it for themselves – but their failure to tell all patients that they are being placed on the “pathway” (eurgh) has holed the current system beneath the waterline. Its abolition will lead to inconsistent treatment of the dying – but people will at least be told what decisions clinicians have made about the end of their lives, and even be consulted.

Second, Whitehall hit squads are to be sent in to Britain’s  most dangerous hospitals to try to stop so many  unnecessary deaths. The aim? To remove bad managers and avoid more Mid Staffs hospital scandals, where staff abandoned people to die in their beds, and patients drank the water from flower vases to cling to life.

Third, the NHS medical  director, Sir Bruce Keogh, spells out in more detail how a seven-day NHS will work, with routine  treatments, scans and consultants on the wards at weekends. This sort of disruption to employees’ family lives is never going to be popular, but managers may strike a Faustian bargain with ministers under the pretext of helping the NHS to become more economical.

Convenience counts for patients, of course. But there’s a paradox here. We like to see health services as a commodity on tap – yet we also want highly personalised, compassionate care. That takes time. Kindness doesn’t cut you short and send you home. So when there’s a bit of a wait at  hospital, it might be that the  doctor is busy being nice to the person ahead of us in the queue.

i@independent.co.uk

Twitter.com: @olyduff

News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Sport
world cup 2014A history of the third-place play-offs
News
Tommy Ramone performing at The Old Waldorf Nightclub in 1978 in San Francisco, California.
peopleDrummer Tommy was last surviving member of seminal band
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
Several male celebrities have confessed to being on a diet, including, from left to right, Hugh Grant, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ryan Reynolds
life...and the weight loss industry is rubbing its hands in glee
Sport
The Mexico chief finally lets rip as his emotions get the better of him
world cup 2014
Voices
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
arts + entsReview: Wembley Stadium ***

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice