Tales from an NHS Patient Tales  from  an  NHS  Patient
I    was    totally    disillusioned    after    reading    the    articles    in    the Hemel   Gazette   (28   March   2018)   about   the   NHS   shambles   of the West Herts Hospitals. My    personal    experience    of    healthcare    in    Dacorum    was excellent when I fell ill just before Christmas in 2014. The    paramedics    arrived    within    minutes    and    assessed    my condition.      They   whisked   me   off   to   Watford   General   Hospital for   emergency   treatment.   At   around   6:30am,   after   about   a high   speed   20   minute   journey,   we   arrived   and   was   introduced to   the   consultant,   Mr Anderson,   and   his   team   who   were   going treat me.
The   operating   theatre   was   ready   but   there   was   a   tense,   lengthy   debate   over   the   availability   of   a   bed.   Luckily, everything went ahead and I am here to tell the tale. The   paramedics,   nurses,   consultant   and   doctors   were   all   wonderful   and   I   am   truly   indebted   to   them   for   their care.
However,   three   days   later   I   had   to   be   re-admitted   again   after   being   discharged   prematurely.      My   GP   had visited me at home and, expressing his concern, telephoned the hospital for re-admission direct to the ward. No   bed   was   available   and   I   spent   the   first   night   on   a   trolley   in   the   admissions   lounge.     Again   the   doctors   and nurses   were   excellent   both   in   making   me   comfortable   and   treatment.      The   next   day   I   was   on   the   ward   in time to celebrate Christmas in Watford Hospital.
On   reflection,   I   believe   NHS   management   pressures   on   front   line   staff resulted    in    little    continuity    of    treatment.        Hence    my    erroneous premature   discharge   from   hospital.   Nursing   staff   and   doctors   were being   shifted   around   from   unit   to   unit   depending   on   their   speciality. One   doctor   would   visit   in   the   morning   and   say   I   could   now   be   tried   on solid   food,   then   later   in   the   afternoon,   without   having   chance   to   eat   a meal,   the   senior   nurse   informed   me   that   I   would   discharged   the   next day.        I    expressed    my    concern    that    I    hadn’t    seen    a    doctor    for reassessment   and   she   replied   to   the   effect,   ‘you   were   grateful   for   this bed,   so   you   should   now   vacate   it   for   someone   else’.      I   still   felt   poorly and now had pangs of guilt too.
Later   in   the   same   year   I   had   elective   surgery   on   a   separate   problem.      This   was   a   case   of   third   time   lucky after   two   operation   dates   were   postponed.      One   by   St   Albans   City   Hospital   who   said   they   didn’t   have suitable facilities and one by Watford Hospital due to work load. Afterwards,   I   then   had   a   resultant   problem   that   entailed   a   return   visit   to   Watford   A&E.      There   was   also   a situation   when   it   came   to   having   some   clips   removed.      First   there   was   no   one   at   my   GP   surgery   that   could do   it   and   I   was   referred   to   Hemel   Hempstead   Urgent   Care   Centre   who   it   turned   out   didn’t   have   the necessary special pliers.
The   NHS   say   they   have   adopted   government   policy   of   choice   of   hospital   for   all.      I   doubt   this   is   such   an easy   option   as   treatment   in   the   local   area   is   becoming   so   limited   as   seeming   to   be   no   choice   at   all because,   when   it   comes   to   medical   treatment   in   hospital,   voting   with   our   feet   is   not   so   practical   when   local hospitals   and   associated   emergency   services   are   either   closing   or   cannot   cope   with   demands   of   the populous.
A   family   relation   fractured   a   hip.   The   patient   was   taken   by ambulance      to      Watford      A&E      Department.      We      were retrospectively     informed     that     healthcare     managers     had stipulated   the   destination   and   there   was   no   other,   more   local option. When   it   came   to   this   hospital   admission,   again   there   were   no practical   choices;   the   on-site   unit,   go   private,   or   suffer   in   pain!     In   retrospect   the   patient   received   good   nursing   care   although, being    a    ‘Specialist    Unit’,    they    initially    failed    to    look    at    the ‘whole    person’    and    did    not    diagnose    an    additional    bladder problem.
In   the   distant   past,   another   of   my   relatives   had   excellent   treatment   in   St   Albans   City   Hospital   with   fast, efficient   follow-up   and   on-going   support.      However,   we   are   told   that   we   must   not   dwell   on   the   past, instead we all should move on and concentrate on the future
So   far   this   year   (Spring   2018)   there   is   even   a   public   notice   in   our GP   surgery   stating   that   the   NHS   is   under   pressure   and   there   is   a limit   of   one   ailment   per   urgent   appointment.   On   occasions   I   have tried   to   phone   my   local   GP   surgery   or,   in   the   past,   wanted   to   speak to   a   specific   hospital   doctor’s   secretary   only   to   find   that   both   can   be as   frustrating   as   calling   the   proverbial   inefficient   commercial   call centre.
The   population   in   the   Dacorum   area   is   increasing   with   the   extensive   home   building   programme   in   the area,   whilst   the   local   healthcare   bureaucrats   have   downgraded   what   was   our   state-of-the-art   hospital!     This    reorganisation    favours    other    hospitals    in    neighbouring    boroughs.        In    consequence    they    have transferred   staff   and   doctors   to   these   other   hospitals   to   create   ‘Specialist   Units’.   Among   these   transfers are Maternity, Acute A&E and Orthopaedic services. Everyone,     presumably     including     NHS     strategists,     are     supposed     to     be     Creating     Sustainable Communities.      Not   being   aware   of   the   Defra   definition   of   a   Community,   we   can   only   assume   that   they have   taken   health   equality,   well-being,   environmental   CO2   and   noise   pollution   by   road   transport   into consideration when they transferred these medical units to specialist centres.     
NHS   care   seems   to   have   come   full   circle   starting originally   with   local   Cottage   Hospitals,   then   these gave   way   to   larger   General   Hospitals,   moving   on   to Regional   Hospitals   with   local   GP   Surgeries,   State- of   the-art   Local   Hospitals   with   Health   Centres,   and now   the   introduction   Regional   Specialist   Hospitals.     It   has   been   said   that   the   future   is   with   community treatment   centres,   no   doubt   another   fancy   name   for the   modern   day   equivalent   of   those   original   Cottage Hospitals?
In   similar   reorganisational   situations,   it   seems   frequently   there   are   news   items   about   things   going wrong   to   which   there   are   mitigating   announcements   in   legalese.     At   best,   for   example,   they   will   usually say   “there   is   an   on-going   investigation   and   are   unable   to   pre-empt   the   findings   of   the   official   enquiry and   comment   until   a   report   is   published.      We   will   note   findings   of   the   enquiry,   learn   from   any   mistakes made, and will improve going forward."   Announcements   usually   followed   up   by   “I   am   sure   our   patients   will   sympathise   when   we   say   that   we have   undergone   a   major   reorganisation.      Our   dedicated   medical   team   have   invested   valuable   time   and effort   to   make   this   transition   as   smooth   as   possible   and   minimise   any   disruption.   We   have   been through   a   learning   curve   and   apologise   to   those   few   who   have   experienced   isolated   problems.   Our new structure is a positive step and we have already made significant improvements.”
The   most   recent   culture   is   to   blame   the   post   2nd   World   War   baby-bulge   (aka   the   older   baby-boomers) generation   for   pressure   of   social   care   and   finances,   as   though   successive   governments   were   unaware and   completely   taken   by   surprise.   It   is   recognised   that   those   born   after   WW2   rebuilt   Britain   and created   the   welfare   state   which   has   since   been   systematically   dismantled.   We   all   know   that   austerity measures   brought   in   by   the   government   aggravated   most   of   these   social   problems.      Successive governments   have   continued   with   free   market   monetarism   policies   (aka Thatcherism)   and   as   we   found in   the   financial   crash   of   2008,   they   don’t   always   work.   Population   statistics   show   that   the   next   baby- boomer   retirement   peak   will   start   in   about   15   years   time.   The   government   are   now   discussing   the introduction   of   an   extra   income   tax   ring-fenced   specifically   for   the   NHS,   so   what   happened   to   all   those past 70 years of taxpayer NI contributions which were solely intended for the NHS and social welfare?
It   remains   to   be   seen   how   successful   the   ongoing   NHS   reorganisations   prove   to   be.      It   is   good   that,   as reported   in   the   Gazette,   individual   members   of   the   various   trust   committees   and   politicians   are   locked   in heated   debate.      However,   it   also   remains   to   be   seen   if   Mike   Penning   our   local   MP   for   12   years   can   stand up   to   Parliament   and   improve   Dacorum’s   healthcare   by   promoting   a   fully   functioning   state-of-the-art hospital    for    the    Hemel    Hempstead    area.       All    that    has    happened    so    far    is    the    closure    of    Hemel Hempstead   A&E   in   favour   of   an   ‘Urgent   Care   Centre’.   More   recently   this   has   been   renamed   to   the urgent   ‘treatment’   centre   and   had   its   opening   hours   reduced.      We   can   hope   that   removal   of   the   word ‘Care’   is   not   significant   and   that   government   regulator,   NHS   Improvement,   will   soon   announce   that   a new NHS owned hospital will be built for the Dacorum population.
Hemel’s original Sir Astley Cooper Cottage Hospital
Having   recently   been   to   the   opticians,   was   informed   that   should   a   serious   urgent   out-of-hours   eye problem   occurred   one   would   have   to   travel   to   A&E   at   Stoke   Mandeville   hospital.      The   eye   clinics   in   our local area are no longer walk-in and an appointment has now to be made.
Hemel Hempstead Hospital Complex
Hemel Hempstead Hospital Entrance ( DHAG Link )
Sir Mike Penning MP outside the disused buildings of Hemel Hospital
We are indebted to the DHAG for their campaigning and look to Mike Penning our local MP for his continued support.