What the NHS can - and can't - learn from the NHS

Caring for a relative in France prompted our writer reflect on British healthcare

Share

A close family member is in hospital in France. They required an operation for a broken back following a serious car accident. The details are only necessary to illustrate the level of care that my relative now requires.

Another detail: they also worked, as indeed have I, in hospitals in the UK for many years. I continue to do so. So it is of great interest for me to spend six to seven hours a day in the contemporary French hospital system with my relative and to think how different it might have been had they been cared for in the UK.

First, it is likely my relative would have gone straight into a neurosurgical unit in England rather than waiting for two weeks as they did here in France ,where her GP managed the care with home treatment and physio assessments.

Second, once admitted to a hospital, it is likely they should not have found themselves automatically, as a matter of course, placed in a single private room with en suite facilities, wardrobe, television, phone and window overlooking a garden.

Thirdly, they are unlikely, during the period of enforced bedrest immediately prior to and immediately following surgery, to have received old fashioned ‘blanket baths’ on a regular basis. Fourth, in my experience, the ward rounds appear on the face of it rather similar: twice daily visits from the surgeon and attendees.

The difference is that the constituency of staff here in France include a physio, a pharmacist, a radiologist, a nurse and a consultant. No students or junior medical staff appear to attend and the tone of the meeting is somewhat more formal than in the UK. No one dreams of calling the elderly relative by their Christian name. 

Apart from this, all the same general nursing and medical procedures are followed in a similar way: the drugs are similar, although it appears ketamine is more frequently employed to calm the nerves; the blood pressure, pulse and temperature are rigorously recorded, the dressings are regularly changed; drips are put up, taken down.

But perhaps the most striking difference is the manner on which the nursing and auxiliary team members care for my relative. They care frequently, respectfully, attentively, willingly, promptly, regularly and appropriately. Nothing is too much trouble. Pain relief is administered immediately it is asked for. Same applies to coffee, tea, food, clean sheets, fresh air, floor sweeping, showering.

Beyond these routine requests, oils and emollients are applied to keep skin soft and itch and blemish free; feet are massaged; calves stretched; wheelchair excursions to the garden offered when the sun shines; the sun shines. 

I shall admit there may be fewer smiles the Gallic demeanour cannot stretch that far, but far rather would I a scowling helpful and courteous attendant, than the jolly unhelpful, no sorry love can’t do that, sorry in a minute, sorry paperwork to finish, sorry got to wait, sorry short staffed, sorry, no time, sorry not allowed creatures that prowl the current NHS.

We have got to come up with a better way to have nursing be nursing; care be care. We do most of the medical, technical wizardry exceptionally well. And free at the point of access is a world class gem. But basic, basic caring staff...well, should we forfeit a few degrees? Not here. In France. Where even the technician training for her degree in functional magnetic imaging gets to spend an entire year on the wards caring for helpless postoperative, post-scanning patients.

React Now

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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Reeyot Alemu (L) and Eskinder Nega (R)  

Voices in Danger: Ethiopian journalists are fleeing from prosecution while others languish in prison

Anne Mortensen
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?