Thank God for the NHS

Let me share a good news story relating to the British National Health Service (NHS).

Some three years ago I discovered that I have prostate cancer. So far it has not been an aggressive form of cancer, and I was informed that I am likely to die with it, rather than of it.

Up until now I have told very few people of my condition: it is a “men’s condition” which I preferred to keep quiet. However, I have been so impressed by the way in which our NHS has cared for me, that I have changed my mind.

In September a blood test revealed that my PSA count had risen significantly, and so further investigations were called for. But with teaching commitments this autumn in New Zealand, these investigations had to be postponed until my return at the end of last month. To my surprise, as soon as I returned, the NHS swung into action. Within the first week of being home, I had undergone a MRI scan and  a battery of tests connected with a ‘pre-op’ appointment. Then last Thursday I went in for a prostate template biopsy, which involved a surgeon taking fifty samples for analysis – all under general anaesthetic, thank God!

My appointment for this day surgery was at 7.30 a.m. To my surprise I discovered that I was the first on the morning list. After getting changed into a hospital gown, my designated nurse helped me to put on tight white stockings to help counter DVT – I looked quite a sight! The information gained at the pre-op was checked again. Then I was visited first by the anaesthetist, and secondly by one of the two surgeons dealing with me. I was amazed by the old-fashioned courtesy they extended to me – both shook my hand and introduced themselves to me. I felt as though I was about to fly around the world first class – and all that was missing was the champagne! I found myself being treated as a person, and not just as a patient. Both specialists wanted me to understand what was about to happen – and invited questions from me. Only at that point did I sign the ‘consent form’.

Within a matter of minutes I was being escorted by a health care assistant to the room where I was due to be anaesthetised. As I lay on the bed, the ‘consent form’ was read out again to me – this time ensuring that I was there for the right operation! And then, oblivion!

Some time later I came round in the recovery room, and who should be waking me up but a friend from Central Baptist Church – one of the many African members. I was taken back to my designated nurse, who immediately got me a mug of coffee and some toast. At that stage I was still groggy beyond, so she kindly buttered the toast and spread the jam on for me. I was touched by her kindness.

By 2 pm I was ready to go home. Benjamin, my youngest son, arrived – the hospital having phoned to tell him that I was ready for collection. So he took the ‘old man’ by the arm and walked me to the car.

Now I await the results. First a multi-disciplinary team will meet to assess future treatment – and then immediately after Christmas I have an appointment with the consultant.

I am very conscious that compared to what others have to face, my health problems are minor beyond. However, the point that I do wish to make is that in spite of the relatively minor nature, the treatment I received could not have been bettered. Thank God for the NHS!

Yes, as we know from the media, there are times when the NHS has its failings. But let’s be clear: the NHS with its care free at the point of delivery, does a great job too. I for one am more than willing to pay parking charges at my local hospital to receive this kind of treatment!

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