Last night I was kept up until the earlier hours by a foot which felt as if it had been dipped in a vat of sulphuric acid. That is no exaggeration. The pain was intense.
Next month I am due to head to the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital for an operation which, it is hoped, may do something about this. The pain I suffer from is very unpleasant; it is a deeply tedious constant in my life.
Despite this, I am seriously considering canceling the operation.
Yes the pain is horrid, but it isn’t usually as unbearable as it was last night. I have drugs on prescription which ease it, and a GP that I trust.
So the debate I am having with myself is this: Do I want the risk?
Because what we have seen of the NHS over the last few days frightens me witless. Ironically, it is more responsible for keeping me up at night at the moment than the neuropathic (nerve) pain the operation is designed to correct.
Listen, the NHS saved my life. I was rescued from under the wheels of an oil tanker more dead than alive and it took heroic efforts from the medical staff at the Royal London Hospital to keep me here. I am eternally grateful to them.
What they did represented what is truly brilliant about the service. A friend who lives in the US said it all: “Here they would have asked you for your insurance details before you got in the ambulance.”
We do not want that. That’s why I fully support what the right wing over there sneers at as “socialised medicine”. Socialised medicine can be, it should be, a beautiful thing. The mark of a civilised society.
But let’s not kid ourselves, the service that we have at the moment has some severe problems. The people working within it, and their political masters, need to take a damn hard look at it. And themselves.
There are some who would blame the media for my fears, suggesting that they have been stoked by a succession of lurid headlines.
They would point to the fact that the majority of people who use the NHS still have a good experience of it.
They would argue that my fears are probably groundless, and that the RNOH has a tip top reputation.
I’m sure it does. But it ain’t the media which is responsible for what has been going on in the NHS. The media hasn’t stoked my fears. They have instead been stoked by the people who have either been responsible for, or complicit in the most horrific scandals. Mid Staffs, Morcambe Bay, and the rest. Here’s the worst thing: they are just the ones that we know about.
What horrifies me is the the sheer callousness displayed by some of the people involved. The bullying inflicted out on those who have sought to expose problems, people who have done nothing more than the right thing. The contempt for the victims. The cynicism.
It’s awful. How can anyone think otherwise? How can people appear on news programmes and glibly suggest that everything is now OK and that lessons have been learned when they quite clearly haven’t?
People should be screaming from the rooftops. The relatives of those who died unlawfully as a result of this institutional callousness have been. The media has been. The whistleblowers have been. They haven’t been joined by anyone in authority that I can see.
I have witnessed poor care at a relatively low level myself; I was a victim of it at times.
Oh it wasn’t exactly life-threatening. But there was the first night at Whipps Cross Hospital where I was denied pain killers for hours because a doctor could not be found to verify that what the Royal London had been giving me was OK.
There was the healthcare assistant who spat that I shouldn’t press the nurse call button because it made a horrible noise. When I was in need of morphine.
Most of the nurses there were good, that should be said, but there was one who generally behaved with a lack of respect which would have been out of place in one of those calls centres that pester you to use their dodgy payment protection insurance claims services.
Scandals grow from that sort of thing if it isn’t nipped in the bud.
The procedure I am to undergo will likely only require an overnight stay. It isn’t a major operation.
But I am desperately scared.
Read a few of the reports about Mid Staffs, Morcambe Bay, the Care “Quality” Commission. Bear in mind what I’ve experienced.
Now tell me, honestly. Wouldn’t you be?