Monthly Archives: February 2015

Why we only get the NHS we deserve

Angry Doctor
Do they ever treat you
like most of us treat them?

Indifference, sloppy procedure, rudeness, improper behaviour.

If that’s the treatment you got every day, how would you feel?

Because, look around when you next walk into an NHS hospital.

Enter, the super-rude

Right across A&E, General Outpatients, X-Ray and all the other clinics, you’ll see the same.

Members of the public treating staff like dirt. Not the other way around.

It may not be abuse or threatening behaviour. But it’s often the nearest thing to it. The pot calling the kettle black.

People acting like hooligans – and that’s just in the reception areas.

Walk to your appointment and you can’t escape it. Because even listening with half an ear, behind closed doors it’s worse.

Swearing, insults, they’re all par for the course.

Death of respect

And – surprise, surprise – it’s not usually your yobs or chavvy mums on the case.

It’s the potty-mouthed posh and jumped-up big deals. Looking like they own the place and don’t want it. “I’ve been waiting here thirty minutes, when will you people start doing your jobs?”

Respect?

It died years ago, if it ever existed.

Every day, staff face a never-ending tide of rude, unpleasant and downright selfish behaviour from people who never consider that others might be important too.

Or even that someone else’s life-threatening condition might be slightly more important than their own twisted ankle – caught in a doorway because they weren’t looking where they were going.

The forgotten magic word

Now ask yourself, is it any wonder when staff get bad-mouthed all the time, that full-service attention is sometimes allowed to slip? Especially at the lower end of the scale, where jobs are often drudges and the only way is up?

Though the public may not believe it, staff are people too. And if your life is nothing but bedpans and cleaning toilets, that extra five minutes on your tea-break can be the only thing that keeps you sane.

Think hard as you walk through the corridors. When was the last time you heard the magic word?

In this world, “Please” and “Thank You” are swearing of the worst kind. (Tweet this)

What the heck, they’re only NHS – they’ll never understand. If you really want attention, best to stand in the middle of the place and yell “Shop!”

OK, there are exceptions. In an organisation of 1.3 million people like the NHS, they’re inevitable. Here and there don’t-care individuals that the tabloids haven’t exposed yet.

But against these embarrassments, most of NHS staff are themselves exceptional.

Because doing this job ain’t the same as your nine-to-five marketing board game.

Dead, or dedication

It takes seven years to become a doctor. Five or six to become a nurse.

Then you’ve got your internship and a whole run of other hurdles before you’re allowed to fly. Not forgetting of course that you have to keep updating yourself to stay qualified.

On top of that, the hours are long, breaks are short or non-existent, you may even forget to know what sleep is all about.

And yet some of them – the more super-dedicated and professional – actually volunteer for more. Hundreds applied to work in Africa fighting Ebola, one of the most dangerous and deadly diseases in the world.

So what have they done to deserve rudeness and four-letter words from their own countrymen who they’re only trying to help?

Looks like minding some P’s and Q’s might be in order.

Complain about the NHS, we’ve brought it on ourselves.

So why aren’t we pleased with it?

The difference between clean and safe

Mum and baby hands
Most of the time, clean just isn’t enough

Chores done. Spic and span.

And the floor looks so good you could eat your breakfast off it.

Really?

Prepared to risk a tummy ache for it?

Beyond appearances

For all you know, that floor could be covered in germs. And how would you know? They’re so small you need a microscope to see them.

OK, soap and water does get rid of a lot of stuff . Dirt certainly, you can see that.

And yes, probably a whole stack of germs.

By making that floor – or anything else – clean, you have basically “sanitised” it.

If before you started there were a million germs to a square inch – harmful pathogens, viruses or bacteria – you have now pulled them down to 100,000, a reduction of 90%.

Assuming of course, that you have cleaned thoroughly – not just slopped with a mop and stopped for a coffee.

Personal hygiene

It’s the same with your hands.

A proper clean with soap and water for at least thirty seconds – or with alcohol gel if there’s no facilities – will get rid of 90% of germs.

Medics and science boffins call this a Sterility Assurance Level of Log 1. If you scrub for five minutes or so, like operating staff do, you get rid of 99% – a Sterility Assurance Level of Log 2.

But there’s a catch. All bacteria have the power to divide and multiply. One cell becomes two, two become four, four become sixteen – etcetera.

And since 10% of them are left, they’ll be at it immediately.

Warm, moist conditions accelerate this. So if whatever you’ve just cleaned isn’t dry, those germs will be racing to replace themselves. That 10% of germs can double in 20 minutes. In less than two hours, they could be back to full strength.

And germs like flu viruses can survive on your skin for 24 hours. Other bacteria can survive for weeks. (Tweet this)

Makes you think twice about the towel you use, doesn’t it? If it’s still damp – and it’s likely to be – the next person who comes along is going to pick up whatever you left. That’s why air blade dryers are so much safer – your hands get dry without leaving anything behind.

Thank goodness.

Because out of all the millions and millions of bacteria that might be around (there always are), it only takes 10 cells of something nasty like e.coli to make you very sick indeed.

This means war

So how about if you deliberately set out to kill germs? Use a disinfectant like Domestos or Dettol?

Depending on the strength and preparation of the stuff you’re using, you’ll reduce germ levels – the number of colony forming units of viruses or bacteria – by anything from 99.9% to 99.999%. That’s a Sterility Assurance Level from Log 3 to Log 5. (Just count the number of 9s).

Pretty good, but not really serious if infection is a problem – like when everyone’s come down with norovirus, or flu is spreading like wildfire.

Going the whole hog is to sterilise everything. To destroy all viruses and bacteria completely. Reduce those million germs you started with down to nothing – all non-pathogenic and pathogenic spores, fungi and viruses.

The science boys shake their heads at that, since it’s not always provable. The best they’re prepared to accept is reducing the million down to one, or 99.9999%. This puts us at a Sterility Assurance Level of Log 6.

Making safe

Safe enough?

For sure. And it’s achievable in as little as twenty minutes by misting up the room with ionised hydrogen peroxide.

Ionising makes hydrogen peroxide particles become supercharged – acting far more powerfully than they would otherwise. They kill on contact without needing to saturate the atmosphere. The dry mist reaches everywhere, sterilising the air as well as all surfaces.

Well you don’t get flu by sniffing the table, do you?

And ionised hydrogen peroxide can be used pretty well anywhere in an enclosed space. You just roll in the electronic robot unit – it’s about the size of a small wheelie-bin – close all the doors and windows, hit the button and leave.

Result, a sterilised room with a germ threshold of zero. Your kid’s classroom, your office, your hotel room – anywhere you might be a risk.

Washed your hands?

You’re off to a good start.

How to take the heat off super-busy hospitals

Girl magician casting spell
Germ-nasteous Disappearium! Hydrogen peroxide zaps all pathogens immediately

We’re not all ill. There is no epidemic.

Yet every one of our hospitals is jammed packed with people anxiously seeking attention.

How come?

Hospital overload

Anyone would think we’re a bunch of fraidy-cat hypochondriacs.

Maybe we are.

But the people crowded into waiting rooms up and down the country are mostly there because there’s no place else to go.

  • Their GP won’t see them, he’s closed after-hours and they can’t get an appointment.
  • The 111 service can’t sort out the problem, so it’s referred them to A&E.
  • Their pharmacy is concerned about symptoms and has done the same thing.

Which puts a whole bunch of people in a queue, all waiting for one thing.

Diagnosis.

Well actually, for somebody to tell them what’s wrong, with a suggestion of how to fix it.

“Take two aspirin and call me in the morning.”

And because they’re ordinary non-medical folk, half of them are convinced their condition is more serious than it is. There’s no family Doc with “There, there, it’s all right. Take two aspirin and call me in the morning”.

All they know is, they don’t feel well.

Which of course, can be caused by a whole slew of things.

But unless it’s an accident or an underlying condition, it’s probably germs.

Germs!

Somehow, they’ve come down with a bug.

Which nine times out of ten, should never have happened in the first place.

Sloppy hygiene. Hands not washed. Gunge from the underside of the sink.

Or just plain unlucky – a nasty stomach-heaving bug floating around at head height in the living room – which wafted in on the coat of the vicar who dropped in for tea , two days ago.

But bugs can be stopped.

DEAD. IN. THEIR. TRACKS.

Because it’s possible to sterilise every room in the country to hospital operating-room levels – no germs at all, anywhere. (Tweet this) Finished. Gone. A total germ desert.

And that’s germs in the air, germs on your clothes, germs on furniture, drapes, carpets, walls, ceilings, light fittings, everywhere – you name it. Total room sterility.

The only place germs can’t get clobbered is outside in the big outdoors. Or inside somebody who’s already got them. So if Hooray Harriet sneezes all over you, chances are you’re going to come down with it.

But not if you walk into a room where the germ threshold is zero.

And that can be any room in the house, your office, the restaurant in the High Street, and the council offices round the corner.

Safe as houses

How’s it done?

Good old Nineteenth Century hydrogen peroxide. The same stuff you can buy in the chemist for less than a quid a bottle. Grandma used it for disinfecting stuff and sterilising her teeth.

Maybe even put some of it on you when you grazed your knee – fizzing round the edges while it KILLED THE GERMS.

Yes, but this is hydrogen peroxide with a difference. Souped up with Twenty-First Century technology.

A nifty electronic machine about the size of a small wheelie-bin sprays an ultra-fine IONISED mist of it up into the air so it spreads everywhere throughout the room.

All the air space – under, over, behind and round the back of stuff – all surfaces, everywhere.

Good ol’ aitch-two-oh-two

Ionised means it’s active. It reaches out and grabs things – drawn to them by static charge. But harmless once it’s done its work.

Twenty minutes later, all germs are destroyed. Because hydrogen peroxide works by ripping them to pieces with oxygen atoms. Blown apart in millions of microscopic explosions.

All viruses, all bacteria. Even the dreaded Ebola, in the unlikely event that you’ve got it lurking.

And they can’t come back if they’re busted to bits.

Which is how we take the heat off hospitals.

We just don’t go there, because there’s no need.

We’re too busy being healthy.

As long as everywhere is treated with this stuff, we’re all OK.

We wish.

Because it takes a long time for us to learn.

Look how long it took before double glazing and central heating took centre-stage in our homes.

Ah well. But we do know some folks who are working on it.

Atishoo, atishoo, is the NHS falling down?

Girl serving hamburger
Even McDonalds can’t serve you as fast as this

It’s happening all over again.

Another scandal. Whistleblowers. People dying in thousands. Claims of negligence, malpractice and mismanagement.

Are we all more at risk than we know?

Unlikely.

Sheer scale

Because the NHS is no ordinary organisation.

Behind its doors, 1.3 million professionals handle over 1 million patients every 36 hours. (Tweet this)

On that kind of scale, problems and hiccups are inevitable.

Just think of the pressure. The clock is ticking, people need attention. Staff take short cuts, managers go for easy options, safety procedures get overlooked.

So now there’s another hoo-hah about failures, and patients “too scared” to complain.

Regrettable, yes. Unforgivable, certainly. In some cases, possibly criminal.

Except that for an organisation the size of the NHS, complaints are inevitable and actually essential.

Reality check

Take everybody’s pet wail and squawk  – A&E.

In just one year, it handles 22 million patients and up – most of them inside the official 4 hour waiting period.

That’s more than 2,500 an hour – or around 40 a minute – 365 days a year, 24/7.

How many fast food outlets can equal that?

Try ordering a double burger and chips at McDonalds and expecting them in 60 seconds – at the same time as 40 other seriously hungry dudes are yelling for theirs.

And McDonalds get complaints too. Every big organisation does.

They actually need them.

Complaints are necessary

And as a customer, it’s kinda like your duty to complain.

Because at that kind of turnover, how else can anyone know that something is wrong?

Everything is happening too fast for even eagle-eyed perfectionists to notice, so it’s up to each of us to press the buzzer when things glitch.

So if there’s moaning and yelling going on about the NHS, be thankful.

Something is getting attention and something will be done about it.

Sure, it’s scary that it involves doctors and hospitals and people’s lives.

At least it’s out in the open and not hushed up any more.

And how many big manufacturers have not tried to get away with that?

Nowadays even BMW and Toyota are not afraid to issue a total recall.

If there is a problem, it needs to be fixed.

Being open and honest about it restores confidence.

And not everything in the NHS is a train-smash like Mid Staffs.

Confidence

Going in to hospital for an op?

In 2014, compared to Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and USA, the NHS was rated as best by the Commonwealth Fund for efficiency, effective care, safe care, coordinated care, patient-centred care and cost-related problems.

Looks like you’re safe enough.

But make sure you shout like hell if you’re not.

You owe it to yourself.

How we stress ourselves into illness

Girl on railway line
Your own mind can be
as deadly as any germs

You can’t always blame it on germs.

A lot of the time, the cause is our own sloppy hygiene.

Or, a bit more scary, we can also THINK ourselves ill.

Sounds weird, but we all know the truth of it.

Know that feeling before an interview when your body goes crazy?

Self hype

Upset tummy, unexpected shivers, apprehension and dread filling your head.

It’s not germs causing that.

It’s you.

Or more specifically, it’s you stressing yourself out.

Most of the time, it’s a one-off we get over quickly.

You’ve done the dentist, yes the root canal hurt, but now it’s over.

The relief is so strong, you get the munchies. And the heck with your sore mouth, that chicken and chorizo baguette is irresistible.

Dangerous company

But stress is not always one-off. And you mess with it at your peril.

A run of misfortune brought down normally fit Dave Dowdeswell with Type 2 diabetes. Grief, bad luck and business failure all at once – something had to give, and it was his body.

It could just as easily have been an ulcer, or cancer.

Imbalance in the body looks for whatever weakness it can find. Stress yourself out about something and there is always a price.

If you’re lucky, it’s momentary, like the nerves before an interview.

If it stays around long-term, you’re going to feel it more. Like there’s a car crash and somebody dear to you dies.

And there’s not a lot of defence against it, except attitude.

Part of the price we pay for the cocooned and sheltered lives we lead.

Oh yes, we’re softies. That’s why stress screws us up so much.

Hard times

Back in Victorian times, a death in the family was not unusual. Weaker diets, lower hygiene, illness was more inevitable – especially among children. Living with grief was more familiar. So was knowing how to handle it.

Most of us have never known anybody die. We’ve never seen a dead body, particularly of someone we love. Which is why we go to pieces when we do.

But life goes on.

And it will do so whether we stress or not.

So we have to teach ourselves to handle it.

Not to be heartless or uncaring. But to see reality for what it is, and come to terms with it.

Victorians went through denial, anger and acceptance, just like we do.

But they could live with it.

And so must we.

Diabetes, cancer, nervous breakdown – stress doesn’t care which it is. If we don’t get ourselves under control, it will choose for us anyway.

The mind has it

Which is where attitude comes in.

We think things change, and so do circumstances. They’re big, they’re small, dramatic, life-threatening.

Well actually no, they’re just things. Our perspective of them changes according to our attitude.

If you’re upbeat and positive, you can handle them. Beat your chest and throw your toys out of the cot, they will overwhelm and destroy you.

Stress can be a killer, but only if we let it. And we can all change it, just by attitude. (Tweet this)

Sure, there’s Xanax, Valium, Prozac – all mamma’s little helpers  when stress hits.

But think about it, why are you stressed?

If you’re honest, most of the time it’s all in the mind, right?

So the only way to rescue yourself is think yourself out of it.

Worth remembering, that. Remembering well.

When the end of the world happens, at least you have a lifeline.

How to keep well when flu jabs don’t work

All frosted up
Flu germs are everywhere –
don’t let them get you

Cold and getting colder.

All that stuff sweeping in from Siberia.

The polar bear’s pyjamas.

Worse, according to Public Health England, this year’s anti-flu vaccine is barely effective – working in only 3% of cases.

Defences are down

Not good, particularly if you’re older.

Because this year’s nasty, a mutation from the H3N2 strain of the flu virus, particularly affects the elderly. (Tweet this)

Despite the £100 million spent on flu vaccination annually, this mutation has smartly glitched the guessing game that world health authorities play every winter – deciding which variants of flu virus will be “fashionable” this year.

You still need a flu jab, because other types are still around and each year’s vaccine can usually clobber about three.

But H3N2 has decided otherwise and mutated so much, that this year’s vaccine is about as effective as water.

Flu is not all

Woe and grief, yes – but it’s a useful wakeup call.

You see, it’s not just this year’s flu vaccine that doesn’t work.

It’s a whole slew of medicines – starting with antibiotics.

Big time mutation across the board has made many pathogens immune to them.

So if you’re rushed to hospital with complications from catching flu – cystic fibrosis, bronchiectasis or asthma for example – doctors are going to think twice before giving you anything.

Overuse of antibiotics in the last 50 years means that, increasingly, they stop working altogether.

Maybe not so bad with your flu complications – medics can quickly put you on oxygen.

But it’s a disaster for medicine across the board – just about every major procedure in any hospital could fail without them.

Back to the Dark Ages

Any kind of surgery – any incision or breach of the body’s skin – is suddenly a major infection threat. Which is why the big worry among health experts is HAIs – Hospital Acquired Infections.

You go to hospital to have your hernia repaired. But MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus) gets in to your surgery area and you’re lucky to escape with your life.

Exactly the headache every surgeon faces with even the simplest case.

But what can you do?

The flu virus is out there and raging rampant. What’s to stop it getting you?

Better than cure

Prevention is what. Simple avoidance.

Alright, you can’t do much in the big outdoors. If it’s your turn to breathe in some H3N2 cells on the rampage, that’s just unlucky.

You also can’t do much if Hooligan Harry sneezes all over you in the lift or Underground. Especially when us Brits are about the most unhygienic people around and never wash our hands enough.

But you can clobber germs indoors so nothing lingers. Sterilise the place when nobody’s around so the germ threshold sinks to zero.

Twenty minutes misting up the place with hydrogen peroxide spray completely destroys all viruses and bacteria. Any room you treat with this stuff is totally sterile.

Which is a lot better defence in your workplace or home than the quick vacuum and dust that most places get.

And why take chances when you can be totally sure?

Especially with so much flu around.

Every year, between 250,000 and 500,000 people die from it worldwide.

Don’t let one of them be you.

Galloping lurgy – from germs that ride in the rain

Running from rain
You can run,
but bacteria are everywhere

Rain is wet and wonderful, right?

Droppeth-ing upon the place beneath – reviving the plants, bringing us water to drink.

Good, pure, wonderful rain – the freshest water on the planet.

Or not.

Because of global warming, see. Full of acids and pollutants, like everything else we touch.

Another step towards certain doom.

A bit otherwise, that.

A drop of the real stuff

In Oz, rainwater runs off the roof into tanks.

For drinking when you run out of beer – to shower with, or top up the goldfish bowl. You wouldn’t use it if it wasn’t dinkum.

Yeah, sure – most of the time it’s clean and uncontaminated – a real life-giver.

Except something happens when it’s chucking it down.

That tangy smell you get from fresh rain?

Champagne aroma

You’re not imagining it, that’s the smell of earth riding up on microscopic bubbles of air, released from the impact of raindrops on the ground.

A bunch of researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have actually filmed it – used a high-speed camera to show a fizz like champagne bubbles popping into the air.

Which means minute traces of whatever’s in the earth are thrown up too – minerals, dust, bacteria. Tiny specks of stuff that are so small they rise and swirl in the tiniest eddy.

No bigger than a micron (a millionth of a metre), they ride along with all the other things that breed by dispersal – dandelion seeds, for instance.

Which is how you could get unlucky and come down with e. coli, staphylococcus aureus or some other bug. Enough to give you a nasty tummy ache.

Or that scary Ebola virus we keep hearing about – only 200 nanometres across – barely a 100,000th of a micron. Small enough to blow anywhere.

All from a single drop on the hard sun-baked earth.

Splash, splatter, splat

It gets messier with plants.

Each hit is like a mortar, smashing and fragmenting. Flinging out anything that might sit on a leaf – sap, pesticides, fluid from fungal parasites – and of course, more bacteria.

Some of it hits and sprays, reaching up and around the plant to 18 inches or more.

But leaves are free-floating, resilient, twisting in the wind.

Incoming raindrops weigh them down, spring-loaded, to catapult up and away into the blue – spinning and shattering into tinier fragments.

Particles so small they could ride the wind for thousands of miles and still never settle – viruses, small bacteria, fumes, soot, oil vapour, tobacco smoke, the works.

OK, so you like splashing round in the rain.

Coughs and sneezes spread diseases – and now you know how they got there. (Tweet this)

Better be careful, like grandmother says.

It’s a lot more than a cold you could catch.

There’s cancer in all of us – but don’t let it kill you

Happy woman
Happily ever after starts with you
(Tweet this)

The clock is ticking.

Are you taking care – or taking chances?

Every second could change your life, depending on what you do with it.

And it’s much more of a life and death decision than most of us think.

In your own hands

Latest figures from Cancer Research UK reveal that half of us will get cancer at some stage of our lives. More and more of us are in the older age groups and more susceptible to wear and tear.

How much wear – and how much tear, depends on us of course.

We all know we should lead a healthy life – some of us better than others.

Razzling around and chasing the high spots has a price tag that none of us can avoid.

But while age is the biggest – and most unavoidable – risk, it’s not the cause of cancer.

Being out of balance is.

Losing it

Cancer happens when body cells begin to behave abnormally. A defect, a weakness, and we are in trouble.

Most of the time, damaged cells are flushed out – the body does it daily, part of the rough and tumble of living.

Because cells don’t go rogue by themselves.

An outside shove does it for them, usually triggered by our behaviour or lifestyle.

And the biggest shove of all is one we’re not aware of – always there, day by day, always pushing us.

Stress.

Yeah, right. As if that’s new.

Everybody has work stress, you just have to live with it.

And home stress? It goes with the territory.

Unavoidable stress levels that depend entirely at how good you are at coping with them.

Enter, digital stress

Except that these days, the stress levels we face are higher than ever before.

Fast-paced, results-driven modern living, what do you expect?

And it’s all us, just us.

Another recent study concludes that there is no link between cancer and using mobile phones. No link to electromagnetic fields – computers, powerlines, television.

Uh huh.

Maybe not physically.

But the pressures they unleash are unprecedented.

Full of angst and emotional strain, teenagers constantly stress about relationships. Every text, picture, Facebook post or Twitter tweet is potentially a full-scale breakdown.

Other media aren’t much better. Television, newspapers. Who among us is not appalled, shocked, sickened, or just plain scared of recent terrorist actions in our own cities – let alone the Middle East?

Stress, worry, uncertainty. They all throw the body out of kilter.

Sleepless nights, stomach upsets, headaches. Just the kind of shove that cancer needs.

So it’s not so much that we’re getting old at all.

Heartbreak, heart attack

A bust-up with a boyfriend is the end of the world. Handling it is impossible. Overwhelming grief, loss of appetite, listlessness, reduced will to live – is it surprising that a weakness occurs, the body reacts and damage is done?

Just the kind of damage that gives cancer a foothold – maybe not straight away, but inevitable in the future.

It’s not just cancer either.

Every moment of every day we’re surrounded by billions of viruses and bacteria – many of them inside our bodies.

First sign of weakness and they’re in too – and stressed people are careless, not paying full attention to the world around them.

Preoccupied or distracted, a cut or scrape can so easily happen. Even forgetting to wash hands properly is enough to do it. First sign of sloppy hygiene and infection is in, not wanting to let go.

Which is when the Doc reminds you that antibiotics don’t work as well as the used to – those rotten germs have developed an immunity.

Cancer, bugs, medicines that don’t work. What on earth can you do to survive?

Watch yourself all the time. Keep clean and healthy. Make sure your mind is right.

Sure, some folks have survived smoking and drinking to reach 104.

Long odds though, with plenty of losers along the way.

If you really want to get there yourself, stay balanced.

Don’t let the nasties grind you down.

 

Your Doc must speak English – but so must you

Diagnosing Doc
Your Doc can’t suss what’s wrong if you can’t say either

It’s kinda wonderful that our country has so many people of different backgrounds and cultures.

Say what you like about immigration, one thing it does bring us is oxygen.

New attitudes, new ideas, new ways of looking at things.

Determination too.

When you change your country, you start again from nothing.  You know you’ve GOT to succeed.

Johnny Foreigner’s new home

Which of course includes the language.

After all, you chose a new country. You’re the one who has to fit in.

Which gets kinda critical when you go to the Doc. More crucial still if you wind up in A&E.

Because though your medic might be the most highly trained medical observer in the world – it’s you who provides the info for the diagnosis.

You’re the one with the condition, right? It’s you who’s looking for help.

But how good are you at describing what’s wrong? And how good are you at recognising what your own body is telling you?

It’s not just English you have to speak, it’s meaningful sense.

So you’re an Aussie here on vac and you speak the lingo, no probs.

But “Aw, I feel crook,” might not be enough for that bright young doctor from Poland to suss out what’s ailing you.

“It’s me gut, aw geez,” doesn’t help much either, even though you’re rolling around in agony.

Only you can know how your own body feels. So only you can explain it, even though you’re not a doctor, or even close to one.

Fatal mistakes

How accurate is what you say? And how accurate is your Doc’s understanding of it?

If you guess and you’re wrong, things could get serious. Like the pensioner who OD’d, when his German doctor upped his diamorphine dose 20 times.

Language can be a killer, so can your understanding of it. (Tweet this) What you THINK you know.

Take Esteban, desperate to find a job because there’s none in his part of Spain.

Constipado,” he says he feels. And the Doc starts looking at his stomach.

Constipation is what it sounds like, it even says so on Google. Enter “Estoy constipado” and you get the return “I’m constipated.”

Except he’s not constipated, he has a cold. And a cold so bad that he’s sitting in A&E is not likely to be your average cough-sniffle.

Which might be just how our next bird flu epidemic starts.

It’s not the Doc who got the diagnosis wrong. It’s the patient who explained the symptoms wrong.

But how many times has a doctor got into trouble from such a simple misunderstanding?

So contrary to a lot of folks, it’s not discriminating or excluding to insist that everyone speaks the same language. And understands the same idioms.

There are too many times when lives are at stake. Telling the Doc what’s wrong with you. Telling the cop how the accident happened.

The same songsheet

And that applies to locals too.

“It’s me leg, innit?” might not be enough to stop an unnecessary amputation.

N’est pas?