NHS - national treasure or outdated inefficient institution?

I was recently sitting in my local accident and emergency department after my youngest daughter collapsed while we were out shopping. I had rung my GP but, given her symptoms, was
advised to go straight to the hospital.

boy using walking frame http://www.madmumof7.com
DS#4 after breaking his leg
Luckily my daughter was not seriously ill and a short course of treatment to rebalance her electrolytes sorted her out but I was a bit shocked at the level of dissatisfaction in the waiting room.

My local hospital has a separate children's A&E department. Waiting there was a little girl with suspected concussion - she's been brought in from school earlier dazed but by the time I got there was  chatting and enjoying some crisps and a drink and playing with the toys on offer in the waiting room.
Another toddler seemed happy building brick towers - his parents discussing whether they should just take him home as whatever he had been suffering from seemed to have passed. There were also two teens with PE related injuries - Friday afternoon is obviously "Games" day at the local secondary. They were both still in PE kit and looking quite fed up with their fussing parents. And there was a little girl who was pale, and wailing and obviously in a lot of pain.

The adults there got chatting and all the conversation was around the long wait and the apparent lack of service. I kept quiet -I don't know about anyone else but I kinda expect a long wait at A&E unless I am bleeding out, stretchered or very obviously seriously ill. Sprains and strains can wait - so they do!

Knowing this and not really thinking my daughter's condition was life or death but respectful of my GPs advice to get her checked at the hospital I had packed a book for me and one for my daughter, a couple of drinks, some snacks and the iPad. I wished I had brought a cushion - that'll be in my bag next time! But fundamentally I was happy enough, or certainly prepared, to wait for my (free) consultation with the busy doctor.

I was saddened to hear people with children who didn't seem seriously ill not just grumbling as us Brits are prone to do for fun, but really complaining. I was further shocked when they moaned about the sobbing little girl, who they felt had jumped the queue. There were whispered accusations that she had been given priority status because of her ethnicity. Errm - or the fact that she obviously more in need of urgent attention?

Racism aside have we forgotten how lucky we are to get round the clock free health care? Yes it's a lumbering institution with its faults but when my husband had a heart attack they saved his life by quickly administering vital medication and no-one pestered me for payment or asked to see insurance forms before they treated him.

And when my son was seriously ill with a mystery illness (which turned out to be Vertebral Osteomylitis) the doctors persevered until they found what was wrong with him - in other countries without cash or good insurance or even adequately staffed/equipped hospitals maybe he wouldn't be able to walk now.

baby in vegetable patch http://www.madmumof7.com
My youngest - alive thanks to a NHS
Special Care Baby Unit
Maybe I've been lucky. When I needed non-urgent surgery I only waited a few weeks. When my son needed an MRI scan the wait was quite brief too. We have never had surgeries cancelled at the last minute, or repeatedly, or had to wait months or years for treatment. I might be more inclined to moan if I generally had had a bad experience of the service.

I was interested to read from the NHS website their guidelines for waiting times. For most things you are supposed to start your consultant-led treatment within 18 weeks of referral. Well for a free service I think that seems reasonable. And for heart conditions or suspected cancer it's a max of two weeks. Hmm. Well that seems quite a long time to me. Certainly if I thought there was any chance I had cancer I would want to see someone much sooner than that!

Apparently in a recent survey 54% of people questioned said they would turn to private healthcare instead of the NHS if they could afford to. This made me wonder. Would I do the same? And despite my admiration of the free service we are so lucky to have I think I also would say the same.

When I was first diagnosed with Fibromyalgia Syndrome 7 years ago it was after months of visiting and revisiting NHS doctors in the NHS system. Finally frustrated by medical professionals having no answers or apparent interest, and after seeing me struggle to walk after a short plane ride my mum insisted I see a private consultant in Cyprus who examined me, ordered a raft of tests and gave me a diagnosis all within 24 hours.  I went back to my GP when I got home and she instantly agreed that the diagnosis was correct!

I don't blame my GP - she's overworked and obviously not a specialist like the consultant I saw but for a while I was quite angry.
But whether I would "go private" as a rule is a moot point - I can't afford it which brings me back to my original gut feeling that I am grateful we have the NHS - faults and all!
My 7 children -All born by Caesarian Section in an NHS hospital.

This post was written in a pr capacity but as always all views and opinions are my own.

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