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
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
News
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
News
people
Voices
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'