Philippa asked a very good question about why I still like the NHS, despite recent experiences.
Well, as a midwife, I trained and worked in the NHS and saw many good things. It was a wonderful concept to have medical care free at the point of access, and in common with all my colleagues, we worked really hard to provide a high standard of care to "our" clients. On the whole, we succeeded really well, despite obstacles in our way.
Perhaps it is nostalgia, but I still believe in the dream of the NHS. Unfortunately, the reality is quite different.
I do have to say that I also saw at firsthand the way that even 10 years ago, bureaucracy was beginning to strangle it.
I remember one memorable day, when we had more ward clerks doing clerical work on our ward than we had qualified midwives, and we were looking after women with major complications of pregnancy, women in early labour and postnatal mums and babies......
We were perennially shortstaffed because there was not enough money to employ more staff.
I remember being on my own in charge of a ward with 12 pregnant women , four postnatal women and four babies for an 8 hour shift.
I also remember when there were only two qualified midwives and me (as a student) providing care for a full labour ward, and I was looking after three women on my own simultaneously..
It does beg the question whether I would want a pregnant daughter of mine being cared for under those circumstances, and the answer is a resounding NO !!
On the other hand, we have the superb skills and dedicated care given by many excellent doctors , midwives and nurses, who often face verbal and physical aggression from the very people for whom they provide care. They show enormous courage and determination to provide health care even to people who treat them badly.
We have a system where emergency medical care is on the whole easily available. At our local hospital, I have never has to wait more than one hour to be seen in A&E (the ER for readers across the Pond), although if you are just "unwell", you may face a wait of several days in some parts of the UK. Priority is invariably given to those brought in by ambulance, for obvious reasons.
If you need referral to a hospital consultant, that is where the entire system falls on its knees.
Once I had to wait 14 months for an appointment . There are simply too many patients and not enough doctors to even up supply and demand.
The government sets up all these wonderful guidelines and targets, but it costs money just to publish the wretched things, let alone implement them. Hence a system where lip service is paid to the targets, yet the reality is that people still have to wait just as long. The bureaucracy is becoming more important than patient care, with paperwork taking more time than patient care.
At my daughter`s recent stay in hospital, my mother was appalled to find that any actual nursing was limited to staff doing routine observations and administering medicines.
Not once did nurses observe to see that children were eating and drinking or not, and the overwhelming majority of routine care was expected to be done by the parents- who, of course, are not on the whole, qualified nurses :-)
The nurses were mostly found at the nurses` station, sitting down at the computer terminals and doing paperwork. Not to mention that there were many clerical staff also on the wards.
It can only get worse, I fear, but there aren`t any other options for those who are not lucky enough to work for an employer who subsidises private health cover.
Depressing but true.