Compassion in the NHS?

imagesThe call for the NHS to be more caring not exactly dominated the news yesterday but featured in the headlines; apparently MP Anne Clwyd spoke about the treatment her husband received in the last few days of his life. She described it as battery farming; he was treated in the University of Wales Hospital Cardiff the place where I too find myself a frequent visitor. And then it got really close to home; before I read to the end of the sentence I knew it was confirm that he had Multiple Sclerosis. Regular followers will know that I too have MS. I confess it was like icy water being dripped down my spine; on the side where I still have (some) sensation.

An iron door slammed closed in my head and the echo reverberated for some time.  The feeling of being trapped in a place from which there is no way out only the promise of an ending in such a Kafkaesque situation where even if one is able to speak there is no-one listening; an institutional deafness where officially the mantra ‘patient care is our priority’ are words spoken but seldom implemented, at least not consistently. Where individuals at their most vulnerable mull over whether to say something when treatment fall short of what was promised or is metered out in a dehumanising manner that you begin to question your sanity.

This week I found myself once again at the Dental Hospital having been sent back by my dentist; it is blatantly obvious to me his simply doesn’t want to deal with the Armageddon situation that prolonged use of drugs designed for short-term palliative pain relief has created. The Consultant at the Dental Hospital is not happy to see me again, he reads me the letter he has received and the bemused expression on  face confirms his assessment. Thankfully for me he says ‘you are caught between the two, your dentist should do the work, but it’s not your fault so I will treat you here. But I will be writing to him expressing my unhappiness’. I paraphrase and these were most likely not his exact words.

He goes on the say I will need to find somewhere to go for regular check-ups and it’s my choice whether I go back to my current dentist or find someone else. At this point the implications of what he proposes to do don’t sink in and I comment on the letter that he (the Consultant) wrote to my dentist. I was less than impressed to read that I had had some difficulty making an appointment at the Dental Hospital and had cancelled 2 appointments. The reason was that I had been unable to park anywhere remotely near enough to me to be able to walk to the clinic. He responded saying ‘you might have told me that but I couldn’t remember!’ Thanks – so I get to look like an awkward patient; the ones they warn you about; the undeserving ones who get their privileges withdrawn!

Later reflecting on the two hours I won’t get back – the Consultant simply says I will have to come for a series of appointments which will be arranged and he gives me a prescription for extra strong fluoride toothpaste (which my dentist had omitted to do as requested). If the Consultant sends a strongly worded letter to my Dentist then he’s not going to be happy (with me) so frankly I’m not likely to want to go back; but I am an NHS patient there. If I look for another dentist I am unlikely to find one still taking NHS patients and this pattern of decay is likely to be ongoing even if I do manage to stop taking the offending pain control. So do I contact the Consultant and explain my dilemma? If I do will it make any difference as he is in a somewhat detached position in the ivory tower of the Dental Hospital – why did nobody warn me when I was diagnosed that I would find myself negotiating the sensibilities of highly paid practitioners to access a range of inadequate services?

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