Tuesday, 19 November 2013

A 'big-up' for the NHS

Griping about the NHS seems to be a very British thing to do, much like moaning about the weather is.  The woman who was in the hospital bed next to me when I had surgery responded to my comment on the weather by saying, ‘oh but we haven’t really had a summer this year have we’.  Now I don’t think anyone would disagree that the summer we had in the UK this year was pretty fantastic, yet comments like these just seem to roll off the tongues of the archetypal whingeing pom. 

I tend to talk about the British in a ‘they’ sense.  I guess I am British, but having lived out of the UK for longer than I have lived in it, I do tend to look at things more like an outsider would.  I grew up as an expat brat in the Middle East but have also spent the best part of my adult life living overseas, mainly in Australia.

When Will and I made our choice to come back and live in the UK after so long away, we did so with our eyes (and minds) wide open.  We knew that living here would have its drawbacks but we also know that nowhere is perfect.  Living in Australia I always felt like a foreigner, which came as a surprise to me.  I thought that culturally our two countries were so similar that it would take no time at all to feel Australian.  It turns out we are quite different.  The differences are subtle but none-the-less they are there and it did take me a long time to realise and appreciate this.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Australia and I made some great lifelong friends there, but I didn’t ever feel Australian.

Since arriving back in the UK just over two years ago I have realised I am more British than I ever thought I was.  I appreciate the sense of humour, the pub culture, the stiff upper lip, the guardedness, the history, the amazing architecture.  Everything feels so much more real here.  I read an article today about Britain written by a US expat and a line in there really hit home.  It said ‘The myth that the British are unfriendly stems from the British culture of avoiding superficial relationships.  Once you have made a friendship it is sincere and has depth and permanence.’

Anyway, I digress.  The same article also talked about the ‘magnificence’ of the NHS, and although I already knew I was going to write a post about the NHS, reading this compelled me to write it today!

Since the start of this cancer journey, I have felt in safe hands.  I have been picked up and set on this path of treatment to cure me of this potential killer disease and so far, everything has run like clockwork.  I have been given time, compassion, guidance, a listening ear and at no time have I felt like I was just another number on the list. 

Each and every ‘professional’ I have come across in the last few months of treatment has given me as much time as I needed to chat things through, ask questions, understand the answers and take it all in. 

There are specialist breast cancer nurses who I can contact at any time with questions or concerns, and I’ve never been made to feel that any question is not important.

The nurses who looked after me in hospital were brilliant.  Some stood out more than others but they all worked hard to make me and my ward mates as comfortable as possible. 

I’m being given drugs that cost thousands of pounds, yet I get it all for free. 

So when people complain about the NHS, it kind of gets my back up a bit. Now I do know that the system is far from perfect and I do know that we pay for it in our taxes.  And I’m not saying that there aren’t people who have every right to feel let down by the system.  It doesn’t always work.   Those same nurses who looked after me so well work bloody long shifts  and one of them told me they had recently had their 15 minute morning tea break taken away from them, leaving them with just a one hour break in an 11 or 12 hour day.  Now that is not great people management and is an example of why mistakes happen, mistakes which can be fatal. 

BUT, it is a system that is there for us!  I’ve travelled through third world countries and it really makes you appreciate the infrastructure we have.  What happens for example, when a woman living in a village in Nepal finds a lump in her breast?  I dread to think. 

I guess what I’m saying is, we need to appreciate what we’ve got.  It is too easy to jump on the band wagon and be an NHS-basher so I just wanted to big ‘em up for once.  They, those British, need to be reminded of what they’ve got.  I’m going to start a campaign to drop every Brit into the third world for a week.  It would be interesting to see if attitudes changed?

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