Tag Archives: NHS

Being A (Patient) Patient

A couple of years ago, after meeting my neurologist for the usual review where we count up the brain lesions, he handed me a leaflet.

Not the usual ‘Coping with MS’ thing, it was a shout-out for volunteer patients to assist medical students with their fourth year clinical exams.

Always up for a challenge and happy to pay back even a tiny bit to our stupendous NHS, I signed up as soon as I got home.

Yesterday was my second time and I was assigned to the ‘Neck Station’, next to the ‘Eye Station’. I was picked up by taxi and whisked to morning coffee (sadly denying myself the chocolate biscuits, pesky low-carb plan) and a chat before the exams started.

I was to present with a sore neck and difficulty swallowing (not too far from the truth sometimes), and was paired up with a doctor. We ran through the scenario, he prodded my neck (weirdly, it seems the Grave’s from Campath might just be playing up again, as I had a ‘thick neck’), so getting into the role wasn’t too much of a stretch.

And it really is like acting; I saw fifteen trembling medical students and of course, it had to be new every single time. I wiped my brain (amazingly easy thanks to MS) before each came round the cubicle.

By student seven, I realised what they should be reporting back to the doctor and  willed them to answer correctly; I now knew more about neck swellings than I ever thought possible. They all made me swallow water, stick my tongue out, stand up, sit down. A bit like a PIP assessment but much, much more fun (free neck massages, bonus).

The main downside was the unexpected request to roll my trousers up. Hmm. Hairy legs covered in bruises from my usual habit of walking into doors and walls. A great look, and letting them do it fifteen times was awkward.

Anyway, if you ever get a similar request, I’d give it a go. Apparently the lunch is fabulous (I was stuck with my packed lunch of olives and protein). One particularly wonderful student recited back to the doctor that I was 34, relaxed and happy.

I may not have shaved my legs, but having ten years shaved off my age was priceless.

Tagged , , ,

A Private Affair

privateIn the UK, NHS doctors and consultants practising privately can be a contentious issue.

The usual arguments:

it costs the taxpayer £610,000 to train every doctor (based on newspaper reports), it’s a drain on resources, they’re trained at our expense in the UK then move abroad, you can book to see the exact same consultant privately within a week, rather than waiting six months on the NHS.

I admit, pre-MS, I thought the same, despite having had a step-father who was a doctor.

Now, I’m adding up the cost of my MS to the NHS:

  • The consultations with a neurologist
  • The Alemtuzumab treatments (plus overnight stays in hospital)
  • The appointments with the MS nurses
  • The appointments with the MS bladder specialist
  • Several trips to Accident and Emergency
  • The appointments with the neurology physiotherapists
  • The MRI scans
  • The blood tests (every months for five years after the last Alemtuzumab treatment)
  • The consultations with the thyroid specialist
  • The appointments with my GP

For this, I have paid nothing. Not a penny. I am not a tax payer right now – being a divorced, single parent for the last 15 years has meant low-paid jobs below the tax threshold but allowing me to be available 24/7 for my son.

So when I was concerned with how my MS was developing last year and, too impatient to wait for my NHS appointment several months away, I booked to see my neurologist privately. I don’t have money to burn – and my mum split the cost with me.

It was the best money I ever spent.

I had a whole hour to talk about everything. My neurologist simply does not have that time allotted to be able to do the same for every patient in the NHS. Say for example he has several thousand NHS MS patients on his books in South Wales. Not forgetting the other illnesses he specialises in. The figures just don’t add up.

Ultimately, I have only paid that sum for my treatment, in over three years. And for that, I am grateful. In the grand scheme of things, it is a truly insignificant amount to what I have received in return – thousands and thousands of pounds.

Since then, I wonder why more people don’t book in privately, at least once. And before they say it’s unaffordable, think about it. Add it up – we don’t know how lucky we are in this country.

Tagged , , , ,

I Love You, No Really, I Do

nhsValentine’s Day (aka Smugged Up Day) is drawing ever closer.

Confronted by oceans of red roses, snuggly-wuggly teddy bears and soppy cards, I am sending a different sort of Valentine’s card this year.

Gone are the painfully awkward days when I had nothing – nothing – to display on my desk at school/work. The shame. Despite firing off 3 for £1 cards to all and sundry, in particular the guy who wore Grolsch bottle tops on his shoes at the height of Bros-fame (younger readers, you may have to google this).

Nope, this year, especially after today, my heart most definitely lies with the NHS. I am in love.

To cut a long love story short, I had an appointment with an endocrinologist this afternoon. I was, of course, the 1 in 3 who got thyroid problems after Alemtuzumab. To my delight, my weight dropped two stone in six weeks, nothing short of miraculous. I sent The Teenager up into the attic to ferret out boxes of clothes I had consigned to the Skinny Era. However, my ever-vigilant GP spotted the trend in my blood results and put an end to my fun.

Anyway, I had the most wonderful consultant today, and, buoyed up by his kindness, I waxed lyrical about the NHS. We’re so lucky in this country and it’s something I try not to forget. I have a great neurologist, a fab team of MS nurses and the knowledge that any problem I have will be swiftly addressed.

In short, I am counting my blessings. Despite the horror of this week, when I lost my beloved cat and companion, I know that I am in good hands.

So, this year, despite being a Sad Singleton the Wrong Right Side of Forty (with a Teenager and Compost Heap), I will be celebrating. I may even treat myself to a romantic dinner for one. But in the back of my mind, I will always remember just how fortunate I am.

Tagged , , , , ,