An eye-opening view of the NHS – from my hospital bed

Charles Burns
Charles Burns

Portsmouth NHS organisation promotes Stay Well This Winter campaign

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MY STORY began on December 30 when I was troubled by a growing pain which I decided to get checked out.

As my surgery had closed for the bank holiday weekend I chose to attend the St Mary’s Treatment Centre, at Milton.

There I was questioned about not contacting a duty doctor. I sensed a bit of gate-keeping budget defence here.

In my understanding the treatment centre is promoted as one of the range of accessible medical facilities, and on this occasion I considered it responsible for me to go to be checked out where facilities are provided in case I needed to be referred on.

Shortly after the paperwork had been completed I was seen by one, then two, nurses who diagnosed pancreatitis and said I needed to be admitted to Queen Alexandra Hospital, Cosham. An ambulance was waiting before the nurses had finished with me.

On arrival at QA I was taken direct to a surgical ward.

I got the idea direct admission from the treatment centre is being tried as a means to avoid ambulances queuing.

If so, in my case it worked like clockwork, so well done. A voyage of discovery started here.

As the night progressed I was given a number of tests, including an X-ray and a CT scan and was shuffled around wards.

During the night of January 1, I was advised by a hospital manager they were on red alert.

They asked if I would be prepared to be moved into a temporary bed space to create more ward capacity to accept someone from the emergency department to make space for another ambulance to discharge.

I said yes, whatever would help. I was moved above the ambulance loading bay and gobsmacked to count 18 ambulances.

As the night progressed, as soon as one vehicle departed it was replaced by another arriving, which seemed to continue until around 4am.

I needed to stay in hospital for a few days during which time I have been moved a couple of times, but do not have any difficulties with that.

At every stage during my stay to date I have had superb care, attention and kindness from teams of staff who appear to be working well together and have a real interest in patient wellbeing. It is truly humbling.

I had several conversations with staff who are from Portsmouth, from elsewhere in the UK, and around Europe who work at the QA – some for several years – and every one of them has been enthusiastic about their work and also like living in the city.

They are real ambassadors for QA, the NHS and for Portsmouth.

Over the years I have been involved in a number of ways with the NHS.

I’m aware the occasional middle of the night slow response can be frightening and frustrating and I fully understand that ongoing changes do not always go as smoothly as I have been fortune enough to experience.

With advances in medical science and delivery and a changing demographic, there is a need to maintain a healthy review and challenge as to how health care is provided, managed and funded.

But we must aim to do this to maintain the staff commitment, enthusiasm and engagement I have witnessed and experienced.

I do not have a magic answer but suggest that we residents and users of services need to be better encouraged to step up to our responsibility to take a great deal more notice about adopting diets and lifestyles which will help keep ourselves, our families and neighbours fit and active and away from emergency services.

In the meantime there does seem to be a capacity problem with QA’s emergency department which may need more than just shaking up staff and systems.

If there is a need for some form of capital investment, I wonder if there is a role here for the south-east Hampshire councils?

Portsmouth is keen to use its access to cheap finance to invest in property, as Fareham has done successfully for many years.

So perhaps the councils could provide a different sort of PFI where the P is for public rather than private finance to fund what the NHS Hospital Trust might need to do.

The capital and interest repayments would be paid back to the local public funders keeping local public funding working within the local community.