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The NHS – Now I Get It

As Danny Boyle showcased nurses and the blue and white NHS logo at the spectacular Olympic opening ceremony, everyone except a few Tory MPs smiled and agreed that the National Health Service, was definitely something to be treasured and indeed, A Very Good Thing.

And then they went to make a cup of tea and started talking about Emile Sande, or David Beckham in that speedboat.

For me it’s always been comforting to know that the NHS is there if I or my family should need it. I didn’t have many bumps and knocks when I was little but staff in local hospitals cared superbly for my dad and gran when they were dying and also did a brilliant job when I had an op last year.

I was in hospital again at the weekend. A minor day surgery to remove a lump in my neck went well but developed into sickness, facial swelling and the need to have a second operation. Without going into all the details I ended up staying in hospital for three and a half days, then sent home with enough drugs to keep me floating on the ceiling for another half a week.

I cannot fault the amazing and excellent care I received at Southmead hospital, from the nurses and the doctors to the registrar who came from another hospital to see me in the middle of the night when no-one was sure why my face had swelled up so badly.

They were all fantastic and I want to publicly thank them.

What was different about this encounter with the NHS however, is that everyone was much more stretched and much more stressed. The first ward that accommodated me was a day case ward, usually open from Monday to Friday. Seven patients were still there on Saturday morning, but they had to close the ward and move us all elsewhere as there were simply no staff available to keep it open.

Nurses were talking openly about the lack of staff to fill shifts, smaller teams (sometimes only two nurses staffing a ward) having to look out for larger numbers of patients, and vacancies not being filled when people retire or leave. This is partly due to the new hospital being built, which is modern and swish but which will also hold at least 400 less bed spaces. Is this realistic for a city the size of Bristol?

I know that every job has its pressures and nurses and doctors are not the only ones facing immense stress and change. But this weekend I realised that we cannot take the NHS for granted. It deserves our support and we should fight for it’s future. Now I get it.

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