An elderly relative needed an urgent hospital check-up – a blood clot and infection scare.
Negative, as it turned out – though a bit nerve-wracking as it happened.
Not that it was allowed to be a drama.
Without exception, hospital staff from reception to department administrators to nurses to doctors were all reassuring, calm and professional – nothing too much trouble – dignity and respect super-plus.
Doubly important when you’re over ninety and a bit unsure of this world whizzing round you.
Yes, there were waits. Long ones watching the clock while blood tests were processed and ultrasound time was found.
But things happened, somehow the busy schedule was opened up to accommodate this little old lady – all on top of the usual hectic pace that is the hospital norm.
The extra mile – every day
Yes, take a bow – everything about this experience was exemplary.
Nobody wants to be in hospital and it was two days out of everyday life. Tiring, drawn out – but inspiring in the company of staff amazingly adept at putting smiles on our faces.
In reassuring surroundings too.
Spend a few hours in a waiting room chair and you notice things like clean floors and dust-free furniture. Same thing with the inevitable loo-breaks. Clean, properly up kept, with every sanitising precaution visibly upheld.
All stuff that is really difficult in a super-busy place with several hundred people all doing different things to the best of their professional ability – dedicated, committed and involved like you’ll never find in a supermarket or clothing store.
Horrible people get treated nice too
Sure, there were people all around who moaned and complained.
One look at their faces though, it was obvious they will always whinge about something.
How have we become so awful that we have to bellyache all the time – especially with so many people trying to help us?
A lot of people seem to bad mouth the NHS – and maybe they have reason. But two full days going through the system without anyone putting a foot wrong seemed to be the norm in this hospital – not at all an exception.
So, a message to the moaners on behalf of NHS staff who are far too polite to say:
Accusing headlines still roll – long after the Mid Staffs disaster.
Sloppy hygiene, indifferent care, patients maltreated and sidelined.
Will nothing save the NHS from self-destruction?
Once more with feeling
It’s from reports like these that the Compassion in Practice programme was begun – a nation-wide initiative led by Jane Cummings, Chief Nursing Officer for England.
Compassion is so sadly lacking that a special drive is necessary to put it in place. To recognise that patients are human beings, not numbers. That feelings and sensitivities are involved.
All very laudable – but in reality, just another top-down knee-jerk from the rah-rah top dogs. To make it look like some moral responsibility is happening.
Yes, it’s an important project and the people involved in it are obviously committed to the hilt. It’s also doomed to token responses and indifference across the board.
Because though its focus is compassion, in the misguided real world we’ve created for ourselves, our culture no longer includes kindness.
We have become mean, selfish and bad-tempered in ways that would shock our parents. The product of our go-faster, results-driven, material-grabbing society.
And strong though it is, the Compassion in Practice programme is no match for our ingrained reflex of only looking out for Number One.
Its very credo demonstrates the background from which it has sprung: Care, Compassion, Competence, Communication, Courage and Commitment.
Take out “Compassion” and it could be any double-speak marketing plan from selling life insurance to toothpaste. Our sales teams care, we bring you the best through Competence, Communication, Courage and Commitment.
You’ve been a customer. You’ve heard it before.
All those invisible words strung together to be saluted while the company hymn is sung. Meaningless promises of nothing from their overuse. Right over the heads of patients and medical staff alike.
A real issue
Which is a crying shame because it IS important. Compassion, that is.
People ARE lying in hospital and suffering unnecessarily.
Ignored, unattended and forgotten because that is the way we treat everything in our online, mobile-obsessed, narcissistic society.
You know it’s a deadly disease, you put yourself in the line of fire. The consequences are entirely yours.
So what do they call that, self-inflicted death?
Suicide, right? You’ve committed suicide.
And it wasn’t Ebola that did it, it was you. By your own volition.
Ebola just does, what Ebola does. And exposing yourself to it goes one way. You knew that, before you started, but you did it anyway.
Makes you think about those volunteers who are out there fighting the disease, right? Médecins Sans Frontières , our own NHS people, British armed forces – and the selfless folk from a whole stack of other countries, doing their humanitarian best.
Heroes every one of them. Because they risk suicide to do what they do.
They know they could die. But they do what they do for the sake of others.
How careless can we be?
Not like the rest of us.
Every day we take stupid chances. We know they’re stupid, yet we take them anyway.
We’re not actually thinking suicide at the time, we’re just being lazy.
But those are the stakes, we’re playing with our lives. And we do it through sloppy hygiene.
Want an example? Look no further than a handshake. Not the how of it, the contempt of it.
“New research has revealed that just 38 per cent of men and 60 per cent of women wash their hands after visiting the lavatory.”
Disgusting, yes. But more than that, seriously stupid.
Because every single one of us knows the importance of washing hands after going to the loo. We know what happens if we don’t – that we could make ourselves seriously ill. We know it could put us in hospital.
We even know we could die from it.
Yet we carry on anyway, not thinking for a second that we just risked suicide.
Exactly the same as painting a target on your chest and walking onto a shooting range. Seriously, utterly stupid.
Because you don’t see the Ebola mercy-workers taking chances like that – and they KNOW the chance they’re taking.
They’re ready with the meticulous scrub-up, the personal protective equipment donned under the watchful eye of a trained clinical observer: scrubs, overalls, apron, boots, double gloves, medical mask, respirator, goggles, surgical cap.
Then the UV tunnel, the chemical checks, everything. A whole careful code to be followed in scrupulous detail.
And still they can be unlucky. One unguarded moment, one second of diverted attention – and a needle-stick changes their lives.
Yet how many of us stare at the mirror in the loo – check the hair, the face, the way our clothes sit – and walk out without touching a tap?
A deliberate needle-stick moment, right there.
It was you!
Pleading forgetful is just making excuses. We’re just too lazy and we know it.
So how many of us actually do walk out of the loo – to come down with some medical nasty? Norovirus, diphtheria, MRSA, take your pick.
We don’t go looking for Ebola. But we sure as hell got what we deserve. (Tweet this)
Or worse, pass it on to somebody else by shaking hands, handing out coffee and biscuits, or simply handling the office phone.
Another scandal. Whistleblowers. People dying in thousands. Claims of negligence, malpractice and mismanagement.
Are we all more at risk than we know?
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.
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.
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.
Because London is the busiest ambulance service in the world and that’s why they want to work here. 5,000 calls a day is a challenge they can’t resist – remember Crocodile Dundee?
They’re here to help you. To reassure, to care, to get you towards feeling better.
They’re dedicated and professional too.
But who teaches them that wonderful compassion and the skill to restore confidence, only a few short years out of school? The Aussies, the Kiwis, the Poles – or our own home-grown heroes, right here in the Old Country?
Nobody else in the world can care for you better.
Not even your GP, who’s swamped with patients now out-of-hours work is stopped.
And it’s a terrifying world when you don’t know what’s happened to you.
Especially at 2.00 in the morning, when NHS paramedics are the only people on the planet who are concerned that you’re having a panic attack.
They don’t call it love, but that’s what it is.
Compassion and care for fellow human beings, totally selfless and unreserved.
In the euphoria of the festive season, you might have missed it.
A telling report that the number of NHS managers earning more than £300,000 a year has doubled, with some pulling down a whopping £620,000.
Obscene amounts of money
Frankly, the idea that ANYONE earns more than a tenth of that is pretty disgusting. And yes, that includes the Prime Minister at £142,500.
Because none of these are your rank-and-file NHS do-ers. They’re not doctors or specialists either, not one of them is involved in the actual practice of making people well.
These are top-level “executives” brought in on the advice of “consultants” – and paid an outlandish fortune for “high calibre” expertise at short notice.
Unhealthy business practice
And “consultant” of course does not mean an expert in the medical sense – but a management consultant, whose only connection to anything vaguely medical might be a thing called a balance “sheet”.
Sad cases, these guys. Even on mega-buck salaries they can’t manage their own lives, often demanding even more.
Put that against nurses and midwives, who have yet to receive the 1% pay rise they were hoping for in 2014.
Yup, you got it. It’s the non-medical side of the NHS that’s soaking up all the money.
So don’t go bad-mouthing A&E departments because they can’t get through the deluge of winter patients needing attention. Go chuck rocks at the managers who failed to provide facilities and resources for them to do their job properly.
Do they doctor the books too?
Gross mismanagement? You better believe it.
This item from The Telegraph is just the tip of the iceberg: ‘Medway Foundation Trust, recently named as having one of the worst A&Es in the country according to patient surveys, paid Nigel Beverley rates of £1,740 a day until he left just before an inspection found A&E in a “state of crisis”‘.
Unfortunate isn’t it, that GBH is against the law?
Except such monsters have no place in hospitals, or anywhere near one.
The only rightful place for them is buried under the sewage of their own making.
Sick as in not well, feeling ill, under the weather.
Because if you’re well, or only slightly poorly, you’ve no business wasting NHS time.
This is winter, see? When the NHS is really over-stretched.
Cold weather, lots of breathing problems, the seasonal bash of norovirus – and boozed-up party-goers with injuries from fights, accidents or liver-crashes.
All on top of the usual load of people needing operations, treatment for disease, controlled recuperation, or long-term care.
If none of these are you , then stay the hell out. Trivial problems just kick the whole system into overload.
Unless of course, you’re one of those workaholics in denial. Taking a big chance, but trying not to think about it.
You know you’re sick, but you’re swamped at work. Or maybe you fear for your job if you take time off.
Wellness doesn’t help
Yeah, yeah, so your company has a wellness programme. You go to the gym, follow their salady diets, fake the medicals or duck them.
But you’re at your desk six days a week at 7 am, work through regularly until 10 pm, always burning the candle at both ends.
Always with a sniffle too, because your resistance is low. Tired out of your mind, with no resilience. Tummy complaining, but you drag yourself around. How long before you give yourself a heat attack?
You need a doctor and you know it. And you’re probably dragging your colleagues down with you – a misplaced work ethic that costs UK businesses £29 BILLION a year.
You see, just by being ill you put others at hazard.
Your company might have wellness procedures and care about health.
Colleagues at risk
But betcha a million quid they’ve got nothing to get rid of harmful germs spreading around in the workplace. A quick vacuum and a wipedown and that’s your lot. All those viruses and bacteria just waiting to bring somebody down.
And the rate you’re going, you could trigger an epidemic.
Which means you need the NHS as a matter of urgency. And your employer needs to hike up hygiene levels before half the staff join you.
Like HEPA filters in the air conditioning to take out the germs. Or a nightly mist-up with hydrogen peroxide to make the whole place sterile. Or both, for 24 hour protection. More effective than exercises in leotards, tracking your weight, and making you eat grapes.
So that if you insist on going to work, at least those around you stand a fighting chance.
Bet on yourself
Go on, get yourself to the doctor. You’re genuine, not pulling a sickie. And the whole NHS exists exactly for people like you. You’ve proved your worth, now invest in yourself.
And if your boss still can’t come to terms with that, you’re working in the wrong place anyway.
Do it NOW, before something happens and you can’t.
Temperatures are plunging, but the NHS is in meltdown.
There’s massive and unprecedented demands on the service all over – ambulance services, A&Es, treatment centres stretched to the limit as if it’s New Year’s Eve.
It might be an ordinary week in the run up to Christmas, but more people are feeling the sudden cold and succumbing, more victims are being felled in norovirus attacks, and more people are drinking themselves silly – more arguments, more fights, more injuries, more accidents.
The rest of the country was equally scary – West Midlands 3,550, North West 3,973, East of England 3,278.
Scarier still is that around 1 in every 10 call outs is alcohol related – a legacy of low prices that encourage drinking at home before a night out – straight into a drinking culture fuelled by festive season bonhomie and extended opening hours.
Many other calls are unnecessary, paramedics responding to patients who should have gone to their GP.
But many people can’t get to their GP. With many surgeries only open during business hours, waiting times for an ordinary appointment can be a week or more. Not good when you’re hurting and need attention NOW.
Going to A&E has the same problem. First priority is of course to more serious cases – but even for acute pain you can expect to be triaged to a standard 4-hour wait.
So it’s the ambulance crews who take the brunt – long 12-hour shifts with no let up from pressure.
The stress is amazing. Response time for a life-threatening emergency is supposed to be eight minutes. Not easy when traffic congestion alone could make journeys ten times longer.
A bottle-neck in many A&Es ramps up the pressure. They’re busy in there.
Backed up when they should be on the road, ambulances might queue four and five deep to reach a hospital bay – and during that time the patient is the crew’s responsibility – along with pressure to cope with still more incidents happening out there, round the clock…
Across the board the NHS is receiving £700 million to cope with this year’s pressure. It’s not enough and all of it should go to the ambulance service urgently.
Because in case you hadn’t noticed, life isn’t as easy as it once was. GPs no longer make house calls. And when you finally do get through to an appointment, five minutes consultation time is your lot – next please, there’s people waiting.
But call 999 and the ambulance service comes running. Which means that paramedics are way more than the frontline emergency teams they’re trained to be. And as the sharp edge of the NHS, their work takes the heat off right through the whole system , not least through overworked A&Es.
In safe hands
You see, to Tom, Dick or Harrys like us, getting sick or having an accident is a major drama. We’re scared, we don’t know what’s happening to us, we anticipate the worst.
Which is where the training of our paramedics is so amazing. And why they get called so often.
Theirs is the calm, confident voice of the professional. Reassuring. Soothing. You’re obviously in the hands of experts. You can relax.
You’re in your own home too. Not the daunting environment of a hospital. Familiar things surround you while practiced hands provide care. You’re going to be OK. No panic attacks. No nervous reactions. No complications.
If you’ve ever been cared for by an ambulance crew you’ll know the quiet sureness, the easy confidence – already three-quarters of the way to feeling better.
Meet your new GP
Which makes them our new GPs – and then some. And every year 1 in 20 of us will call urgently for their services.
Not for “take two aspirins and call me in the morning” either – but for serious needs like segment elevation myocardial infarction – a type of heart attack.
Anything in fact, from minor injuries to cardiac arrest, to multiple casualties from serious road accidents. How many GPs can handle that?
Our paramedics are still in the hot seat though. The NHS is a big place and £700 million doesn’t go very far in a country that needs expert care 24/7.
More ambulances, more crews, more systems to handle them, they’re urgent now.
Because come rain or shine, our paramedics are always there when we need them – no matter how tired, hungry or rushed of their feet they are.
And they deserve better than 10p in the pound for saving our lives.
Among the lyrics nay-sayers are objecting to in the new Do they know it’s Christmas song just released by Bob Geldof & Co is “Where a kiss of love can kill you…”
It’s a heart-breaking reality for the people of West Africa, whose love and compassion is denied them by the highly contagious infect-on-contact nature of the virus.
The dignity of dying
It’s been much reported that the custom of touching and kissing the dying and the dead is a major cause of spreading this dreadful affliction.
How dare we be so heartless and uncaring!
We would all be better people for demonstrating such humanity. To show love to the dying is one of the greatest gifts of all. Unfortunately, with Ebola around, it will kill you.
Except maybe we’re not that uncaring – just misplaced in our thinking and unobservant of the ways of others. And maybe a little insensitive.
Here to help
This week, more volunteers flew into Sierra Leone – thirty NHS professionals, advance guard of over 1,000 highly motivated and committed young people.
As trained medics, it will be ingrained in them that patients must be isolated and contact restricted to professionals wearing proper protection. Not wrong, but itself adding to the crisis.
To locals they are the “spacemen” who take loved ones away, denying them the care and support of their family when they need it most. To avoid such heartbreak, they hide sick family members from them, stealing into the jungle to even more remote havens.
But unfortunately not they’re havens at all. How ever far they run, Ebola will kill them for their love. Giving and loving is not on the agenda.
Where’s the love?
That makes it a bleak Christmas for everyone. As a celebration of love and compassion it belongs to the world – for Muslims, Buddhists, Jews and Hindus every bit as much as Christians. Love and compassion are qualities we all seek to show in our actions, 365 days a year.
In fitting tribute, in Germany, Japan and several other places round the world there are shops devoted to Christmas all year round. Such glitz and razzmatazz might overpower the underlying love, but the motive is still there. We care, we need to show it, Happy Christmas.
Which brings us back to Sierra Leone. If we need to show compassion anywhere, it’s here.
Yes, it’s amazing what’s happening. Professionals from around the world – particularly Britain – giving of themselves and risking their lives to be there. Money and resources can buy a lot of compassion.
But where is the love the locals need to show their own?
Well-meaning but insensitive
With our Western ways and perceptions, we steal it away from them just as surely as Ebola does. They can’t touch, feel, kiss, or be together. We rip them apart without knowing we are doing so. No wonder they flee to the jungle.
How would we feel if we were denied access to our own? Our own children, soul mate or parents taken away from us – as if we have committed a crime?
This is the REAL Ebola crisis, isn’t it?
How to let people show love.
And how to be genuine about it.
So a bunch of pop stars get together to make a fund-raising song – they waive their fee but generate more publicity for themselves than they might otherwise have got on their own.
So the concerned among us make donations – dumping the guilt bucket and wallowing in feelgood.
So the gung-ho professionals arrive in West Africa – troops, medicos, nurses, gofers – boots on the ground, determined to stomp out this terrible virus once and for all.
But where’s the Christmas?
Where do the people of Sierra Leone get to show their love for the family who are suffering and dying? How do they show their love and respect for the dead?
Can we solve it with pastors, imams, rabbis and priests?
The hurt is in the heart
Have we any idea how hard it is to ask those people to let go? To get them to accept that it’s out of their hands, those lives are gone – unless by some lucky chance the medical professionals can bring them back again?
All we can do is think of them and try in every way we can. Recognise they all face the long good-bye and try to put ourselves in their position.
Because unlike them, we’re not good with dead bodies. They scare us, even when they’re our own family. A throwback maybe to 350 years ago, when we ourselves were faced with The Plague and in our ignorance we thought the slightest touch could do for us.
Be kind to these people, they’re humans just like us. Take them to your heart and love them in your own way. If the world shows love, maybe losing a loved one may not be so heart-breaking.
Love is the greatest gift of all and Ebola can’t have it.