When my diabetic daughter collapsed last week I was reminded of just how lucky we are to have the NHS – and how important it is to stop budget cuts and red tape grinding our healthcare system into the ground.
The nightmare started last Friday when my teenage daughter Chelsea collapsed and fell unconscious at home. Suffering from hypoglycaemia, she needed urgent medical treatment. So I did what any dad would do and rang 999. An ambulance was at our front door within five minutes.
My wife Lisa dealt with the situation brilliantly. She is a paediatric nurse so is very capable in a medical crisis. But it doesn’t matter how much medical knowledge you have, when it is your child who is unwell it is different.
Thankfully, while we were waiting for the paramedics to arrive, we received clear and concise instructions over the telephone about what to do for Chelsea. This kept Lisa and I calm at a time when our hearts were in our mouths.
When the paramedics turned up they were superb and quickly brought our daughter round to consciousness.
My daughter and wife then travelled by ambulance to Watford General Hospital with me following behind in the car.
Unfortunately at this point the glowing report for the NHS turns to a “must do better” verdict. My daughter then waited two hours to see a nurse, during which time her blood sugar levels dropped to dangerously low levels again.
This was frustrating for a number of reasons. Firstly, my daughter waited for medical attention while staff dealt with a large number of drunks. Does binge Britain really exist? Spend a few hours in Watford General’s A & E on a weekend and you will be in no doubt about that.
Secondly, the delay in treating my daughter did nothing for our efforts to get her to take responsibility for her condition. We are constantly trying hammer home the notion that there is brilliant medical care out there – ready to support her – when she needs it. If she has any concerns or thinks she needs help, we tell her, she only need ask for it. She then spends two hours in an emergency bed waiting for help. It wasn’t really the message we wanted to convey.
Nevertheless after a night in hospital she was back home and feeling better. How different would it be if we lived in the US where even basic healthcare is rationed to the lucky few who can afford costly medical insurance?
I’m not sure we would even be able to get medical insurance for our daughter if we were State-side.
It reminds me how lucky we are with the NHS which, as this story reveals, is by no means perfect. But we must work to protect this national icon from middle managers intent on restructuring and reconfiguring the institution beyond all recognition.