Thursday, 1 June 2017

Save our NHS

Dear world,
Last time we spoke, I mentioned about the possibility of looking to increase the dosage of one of my medications with the hope that in time I might be one of the very few people who respond well to high dosages of calcium channel blockers and in turn potentially reduce my other medications. I am now a week on from trialing the new medication. Not to jinx it, but so far all seems relatively normal. I’ve been advised what the possible side effects could be so I know what to look out for, but it is very hard not to read into every single thing your body does that doesn’t feel “normal”. I am trying not to be a hypochondriac, which is hard for me as I live with anxiety, so my way of dealing with it is by keeping a diary of my symptoms and then if I can see a pattern that doesn’t seem normal then I can relay my fears to my PH nurse. But here’s hoping I don’t have to do that! If all goes well, I will be on this new dosage for the next 6 months and then I’ll have a repeat right heart catherisation to check the pressures. If the pressures are still stable then we will look to decrease one of the other medications I’m on. So it’s all a bit of a waiting game for now, but hopefully I can continue on as well as I have been doing.
As you can see from this blogs title, the main theme is about the NHS. For the non-British citizens reading this, here’s the science bit: The National Health Service is a publicly funded national healthcare system in the UK. The organisation, funded primarily by taxation, provides free healthcare to all legal residents of the U.K. Medications are subsidised as well and prescriptions may be free when situations warrant.  
I have been incredibly fortunate to grow up having free access to medical services, and never having to worry if I was feeling unwell that I couldn’t access a doctor for free. However had I been born in another country, I wouldn’t necessarily have had that luxury. Instead, I would have ended up with expensive costly appointments, especially with having a chronic disease. I dread to think how much it would have cost me when I saw the cardiologist who diagnosed me with PH or how much it costs every time I have the right heart catherisation operation for them to check my pressures in my pulmonary artery, or the countless MRI and echo scans I’ve had and will continue to have. It would easily go into the tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands. How can someone pay that? I can’t begin to imagine that on top of being told 3 years ago that I had a chronic disease, that I also would have to pay for all the tests, medicine, care etc. to keep me alive. The stress would have easily have made my condition so much worse.
From being born at Barnsley hospital; needing arm surgery aged 8; continuing to be accident prone throughout my teens breaking many bones in my body; being strapped to a tilt test bed aged 18 after a series of fainting episodes; getting quite intoxicated one summer party at university and ending up needing a saline drip to rehydrate me (not one of my finest moments, sorry mum) through to being diagnosed with PH; I have always relied upon the NHS without question. I have come across endless people who make the NHS tick, from porter staff who have happily chatted to me about random topics making me forget which theatre room they are wheeling me off to this time, through to blood takers, specialist nurses, doctors, consultants, professors and paramedics. Each have ensured I am well cared for and looked after; some have consoled me when the future looked particularly bleak; others have saved me from death; and others have given me hope. I am eternally grateful for each and every one of them, as without them I don’t think my future would look anything like it does now.
Overall, my experience with the NHS has been positive. But like everything it’s not 100% perfect. No doubt you will have seen/read on a regular basis by the media there are massive issues with the NHS. In my head I underestimated how many issues the NHS had, I’m not always one to believe everything I read in the paper, but from talking with a number of medical professions I have realised the issue is real which in itself is extremely frightening but what is worse is the issues are MASSIVE. From speaking with a dozen or so doctors in the last few months, most are on the verge of a breakdown due to the crazy hours they work, the cuts they are seeing both in staffing and care which impacts on their work, and others are looking to relocate elsewhere in the world, as they can’t see a future working in the NHS. They feel demoralized, undervalued, especially as staff have taken pay cuts over the past 5 years (pay increases capped at 1%, less than the rate of inflation), and the over-riding feeling I get is these are genuine people who really care about what they do, and only want the best for their patients, but they are running on empty and have very little more they can give. As a patient of the NHS this concerns me greatly. Both for me now and in the future.
There are issues: long waiting times to see doctors; departments are short staffed; staff to patient ratios: referral appointments to see a counsellor (I waited 6 months to see one when first diagnosed with PH); not enough beds (I got woken up in the middle of the night by a nurse who wanted my bed and I ended up being plonked on the nose and throat ward, with a lung condition). Unfortunately this is not uncommon. Through research of my own and speaking with doctors generally I heard one story: “We had to cancel 4 operations today because our ward didn’t have enough beds for them. The ward was full of boarders from other specialties who couldn’t go to their wards, because people were in those beds who couldn’t be discharged because there were no carers or money to pay for care at home”.
What it appears is the current government have been contracting out major parts of the NHS to private companies who charge ridiculous amounts of money for the service, which comes out of the healthcare budget. The current government have been in power since 2010 and over the last 7 years they have reduced the budgets each year, making it at the point where if it continues the NHS will almost certainly end up completely on its knees and will no longer be able to function anymore. It is no coincidence that Jeremy Hunt the Health Secretary since 2012 co-wrote a book, “How to Dismantle the NHS in 10 Easy Steps”. If this pattern continues the NHS will be no more and we will end up under an American structure which is funded by private insurance. Who wants this?!

As I’m sure most of you are aware from the various election campaigns and no doubt endless TV programmes there is a general election coming up next week. I have never really been interested in politics, always stemming away from the whole political scene. Granted I have voted on most occasions since turning 18 and I have always voted conservatives. Nothing really more than I grew up in an environment where the majority appeared to vote this way and never really having taken an interest before I just ticked the box that looked familiar. I now look back and realise how na├»ve I was.
Now I have a bee in my bonnet about this whole NHS subject – so people beware! I don’t want to sit around and let the NHS crumble and be replaced with something resembling the personally crippling American Insurance scheme, paying £000’s for insurance!
To live in a democratic society, you get to have your own vote and you decide who you want to have as your leader. All I ask is that you ask yourselves these questions: Do you use the NHS now? Does your family or friends rely on the NHS for their own health? Will you require the NHS in the future? If you answer yes to any of these, then remember the NHS when you cross the box come 8th June.  This maybe the last time we get to save the NHS. In 5 years’ time we may not have that luxury.
Here is a short clip of a doctor who inspired me to write this blog. After watching his short video he made me realise that we have the power to change things, but we don’t have long to make this change, we need to do it now.
It will be 70 years in 2018 since the NHS started. The NHS is a national treasure and something as a British citizen we should expect to have in another 70 years. Please think carefully about how important the NHS is to you and your family when voting next week.
Can you imagine a UK without the NHS?