The NHS prioritising those with a ‘healthy lifestyle’? I think there's enough stereotyping already

Bit tubby? Back of the queue. Smoker? Back of the queue. Drinker? Back of the queue.

Share

Yesterday it was announced that a ‘think-tank’ has recommended that patients who have a ‘healthy lifestyle’ are prioritized for NHS care.

This is a nonsense, ludicrous, doomed-to-failure strategy and yet the (usually) right wing, body-fascist, smug, holier-than-thou, huffer puffers have leapt upon the suggestion, smacking their lips together with barely-contained glee.

Here’s why they’re wrong:

Anyone who has had the misfortune to visit an A&E department recently will know that they aren’t just stretched to capacity, they are stretched far beyond it. Medical professionals simply do not have time to conduct an in-depth health assessment of every patient who enters the building. Which inevitably means they’ll have to rely on stereotyping, assumption and, ultimately, misdiagnosis.

And there’s far too much of that going on already, as I recently discovered.

Last month my spleen ruptured for, as far as the doctors could make out, absolutely no reason whatsoever. This is, admittedly, an extremely unusual medical occurrence. However, I was shocked at the extent to which, during my week in a London hospital, assumptions about my health and lifestyle were made on a perfunctory, inaccurate and often purely visual basis and the words which actually came out of my mouth were completely disregarded.

I am almost six foot tall and a size 16. Whilst I’m not drastically overweight, the antiquated BMI chart tells a different story - I do have an absolutely almighty and disproportionate bosom. I have an active lifestyle (not rock climbing, marathon running type active, but I’m always dashing about at high speeds and rarely sit still), I eat a very healthy and balanced diet and I do not smoke. My vice-of-choice is that I’m partial to a tipple and, prior to my hospital visit, I drank about two large glasses of wine on an average night. The latter is a fact I was foolish enough to share, in a moment of ill-advised candour, with my A&E Doctor.

When I was admitted to hospital with extremely severe abdominal and shoulder pain, difficulty breathing and a visibly bloated stomach, the aforementioned doctor was quick to inform me that I had ‘indigestion’ because I ‘drank too much’ and gave me a little tiny pot of anti-burp medicine. When this, unsurprisingly, proved to be an inadequate remedy for my symptoms and scans revealed I did not have gall stones (from ‘drinking too much’) or appendicitis, I was placed ‘under observation’.

Another doctor in the ward helpfully informed me that my stomach was not, in fact, as I had been insisting, bloated. Apparently she knew my body far better than I did. ‘Just……you know’ , she said. (She followed this vague statement with a hand gesture I took to mean ‘you’re a little bit fat’). She recommended I remained under observation. I insisted on having a diagnostic procedure. At no point during any of this was I considered to be ‘urgent’.

I was put on a not-particularly-high-priority list. Two and a half days after being admitted to hospital I finally went in to have what I thought was a routine keyhole procedure to look inside my tummy with cameras.

Eight hours later I woke up. They’d found a litre and a half of internal bleeding in my abdomen (that’ll explain the bloating, then) and had to perform an emergency laparotomy (where they slice you down the middle like a pirate would) to determine the source of the bleeding and eventually fix my broken spleen.

After my operation, I was told it would take me ‘longer than most’ to begin walking again because I’m a ‘big girl’. I defied that broken logic and astounded my doctors and nurses by walking, lifting stuff and leaving the ward in record time. A month later I am back to work, dashing about endlessly once more.

Despite the lazy stereotyping I was subjected to, my recovery proved that I am strong in both mind and body. Endless blood tests revealed me also to be in tip-top health.

Quite simply, if this proposed regulation is put into place then I and millions of others like me will be wrongly disadvantaged. Bit tubby? Back of the queue. Smoker? Back of the queue. Drinker? Back of the queue. Anyone who isn’t a lean, glowing, gym-frequenting whippet who eschews anything known to reduce life-expectancy (including, presumably, stress), BACK OF THE QUEUE, because your ill health is clearly your own fault.

It’s difficult enough trying to conquer the judgements already made about your lifestyle in medical circles, without it being enforced by official guidelines.

Two things stuck with me after my health-scare. The first is that had I listened to the initial advice I was given, or not been fortunate enough to be able to passionately stand up for myself and demand further investigation, I would now be dead.

The second is a comment by a family friend after the event, who said “do you think perhaps the doctors didn’t take you seriously because you have pink hair?”.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Copywriter / Direct Response Copywriter

£20k plus sales linked bonus. : Guru Careers: We are seeking a Copywriter to j...

Recruitment Genius: Accounting Technician

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has bec...

Guru Careers: 3D Creative Designer

Up to £26k DOE: Guru Careers: A Junior / Mid-Level 3D Creative Designer is nee...

Recruitment Genius: Ecommerce Website Digital Marketing Manager - Fashion / Retail

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You'll be joining a truly talen...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Michelle Mone attends the annual Serpentine Gallery summer party at The Serpentine Gallery on June 26, 2013 in London, England.  

Michelle Mone made millions selling bras and now dares to enter the House of Lords - what would Lord Sewel and Alan Sugar say?

Kate Maltby
Jeremy Corbyn could be about to pull off a shock victory over the mainstream candidates Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall (AFP/Getty)  

Win or lose, Corbyn will set the agenda unless Labour speaks up

Isabel Hardman
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen