Yet Another Parenting Blog

The goings on of one more (mostly!) ordinary family

An overstretched NHS?

on January 29, 2016

You don’t have to look very far amongst the daily headlines at the moment to see something about the NHS, usually reported in a negative light.

Our family as a whole have had various dealings with a few different local NHS services over the past few years. It’s safe to say, I’ve not visited a local hospital quite as much as since we started a family!

Today was one of those instances where I was at the local hospital with my eldest, for a routine appointment in the ENT department (or, as it appears it is now known, according to the rather posh looking new sign, the “ENT clinic” in the “Head & Neck Department”).

A few things really struck me today. It’s always seemed quite a busy department, though in my experience to date, Children’s A&E has always been busiest by quite a margin! Today, however, it was incredibly busy. Staff were rushed off their feet. I counted approximately 50 seats in the waiting room and all were taken, plus some patients in hospital wheelchairs, and a couple of people standing. Staff were trying to get people seen without too much delay. At one point, a nurse came out to apologise and explain there was a 45 minute delay as it had, unfortunately, been a particularly hectic morning.

Some patients were asking receptionists how much longer they needed to wait. They didn’t sound particularly rude, but needed to know for getting (back) to work on time, and similar reasons. The receptionists maintained their polite, cheerful, calm attitude.

One patient was complaining rather loudly about how it was “a disgrace” to have such a long delay, and other such exclamations. She tried to engage the person sitting next to her in conversation, but her complaints were met with brief grunts, before she directed her moans generally to anyone who may be listening. (No-one was, it seems; or, at least, no-one wanted to acknowledge her!)

Nurses and porters were dealing with many elderly and frail patients, and a rather fraught toddler, who all needed extra time and patience. All the time maintaining a calm, caring approach.

We were, indeed, called in 45 minutes after our appointment time, but each member of staff who dealt with us apologised. The doctor gave my son the time he needed to answer his questions (if you’re going to ask an autistic child, “So, how big is your school?” [not clarifying you’re referring to number of children rather than the building itself] you’re going to have to expect him to have a long think and a demonstration of physical size with his hands, before refining the question, “How many people are in your class, then?!”).

What can I conclude from today?

No-one likes to be delayed, particularly not when waiting in a busy, warm hospital waiting room. But the staff really were doing the best they could, giving patients the time each and every one of them deserved. Is the NHS overstretched? Maybe. But today demonstrated to us that the staff are not letting that affect the quality of care provided, and they’re doing an amazing job under a great deal of pressure, whilst maintaining a free-at-point-of-use service. I think that’s incredible!

I can’t help but wish that other lady in the waiting room could have cut them just a bit of slack, though!


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