Not all bad news in NHS!

 To the Ladies and Gentlemen of Ward 12.

 To all who work in what can only be described as the ultimate Service, that of helping your fellow men and women through difficult and sometimes painful times.

 To the attending Consultants, the energetic Doctors and their teams.

 To the Ward Sister, the Staff Nurses, the Nurses and the Orderlies, my thanks and salutations; but my best wishes to Staff Nurse Laura, who taught a crotchety elderly man who was at times in considerable pain that competence and proficiency can be coupled with compassion; and that a smile, while costing nothing, is worth millions to the recipient.

 Please enjoy this token of my appreciation, which is sent as a small ‘thank you’ from the owner of one of the larger scars in the business.

 Best Regards

 James Michael  ‘Mike’ Cunningham.

The letter copied above was delivered by myself to the staff of Ward 12, Freeman Hospital in Newcastle-on-Tyne just a few weeks after my major surgery. I reproduce it here because of the terrible indictment served to the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust for the running of it’s  Staffordshire General Hospital.  A base number of over 400 patients, possibly as high as 1200, are said to have died through a combination of poor treatment, ineptitude, lack of basic training and of trained staff. 

My own experience is somewhat different to the situation in Staffordshire, as I was checked out at a pre-entry consultation after a CAT-scan, booked in and advised of my operation date after a short but comprehensive discussion with the consultant and his registrar. The fact that my operation was cancelled the first time around was due to the theatre which was booked for my op. being the only one suitable for a liver transplant, so I was told another date. I wasn’t enchanted, but my op. wasn’t urgent, and the transplant was!

I checked in for the second time, was made ready, and the operation was completed. I won’t go into too many details, but suffice to say that I was relieved of approximately 8-odd pounds in weight when all was removed.

I had cause for three complaints during my recovery process.

  • I was given a combination of pain-relief pills which brought on the most frightening hallucinations; quickly resolved once I complained.

  • My wound was dressed the first time by a Scots staff nurse who was probably extremely competent, but had not the first clue about how to remove an adhesive dressing without ripping it off my stomach; as the scar was over two feet long and was barely commencing healing, you can possibly imagine what I went through, but after I stated in no uncertain terms that I refused to let her near me again, things grew brighter by the minute!

  • One of the other patients was a Newcastle United supporter, and he had access to the piped television screening of a game between Newcastle and another crowd of over-paid morons. For over ninety minutes, I was forced to listen and watch as he chanted, commented, cried, applauded, swore, and laughed as his favourite team went through whatever it is they do on a football pitch. It was awful! I couldn’t even get up and move to another room, as I still had various drips, tubes and monitors stuck all over my person! It was the nearest thing to suicide as I considered my options!

As you can see, I didn’t have a lot to worry about as regards my care, and the only thing which grated was the insistence that I repeat my name and date of birth each time I was given a selection of pills. Alright, alright: I know that this procedure eliminates the possibility of an incorrect medication being administered, but I have to moan at something!

The staff at the Freeman were helpful, attentive, able to explain why something was being done or even not done, which to an engineer is worth a great deal! I found the senior staff approachable, confident, always keen to give advice when required, and extremely competent in all the things which they do.

This is I believe the crux of the problem at the Staffordshire General Hospital. The Medical and Surgical Staff probably were competent as well, but they were ruled by Managerial people who were intent on only one thing; and that of course was the Sacred Cause of Targets. A target for the time of treatment in A & E, another Target for the other, the list goes on and on! Whilst the Hospitals in Newcastle and Durham seem to have sorted themselves out in most areas, they might want to check out the catering, as the food would be best described as just nutritious.

I was checked at five different times for MRSA bugs, and this was standard practice; a little expensive, some might quibble, but not me! I was happy that everyone who came in was checked, and for good reason, as MRSA can and does kill!

As an educated individual, I could appreciate where the money goes; all those millions you read about in the newspaper stories; and I am more than happy to relate that in my case, the result was a final check by a consultancy team member who grinned as he remarked, “You’ll probably outlive me!”

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