Thursday, 19 February 2009

NHS Investment - the reality

Well, patently junior's malaise turns out to be appendicitis after all. Mrs P and I lost patience with the slow rate of improvement in his condition and trotted off to hospital yesterday morning (hence my quietness!). He's still there, while they decide on the best way to render him appendixless.

I posted (above) that the local hospital's A&E department had closed - it is now a 24 hour "emergency medical centre". So we went there first. After all, the problem was clearly medical, and we thought it was an emergency. Some years ago, I used to walk past the old A&E department; it was crumbling and tatty. Before becoming the "emergency medical centre", the old A&E unit was refurbished and is now a smart, clean building with nice paintwork, a pretty reception, a smart office, nice chairs, snazzy glass blockwork tiles, and so on.

Just one snag - the reception desk is empty, the shutters are down, and no-one is around. There is a bell to ring. It works, in one sense; you press the button and a bell rings. In other senses, such as whether a person comes when you press the button, it doesn't.

Eventually, someone arrives and books us in. So the hospital records already show us arriving 15 minutes after we actually arrived - a neat way of improving the statistics.

After a mere hour's wait we are seen by a doctor who thinks it might be appendicitis, in which case we should transfer to the big regional hospital. An ambulance will be found for us in about 4-5 hours. Fortunately, I have a car with me so they agree that I can use that.

On arrival at the big A&E department, I feel more at home. This is a proper NHS unit - peeling paint, drooping wallpaper, tatty chairs, and lovely people inside who are utterly devoted to their work.

So, to summarise, a shedload of money has been spent on an A&E department that was immdiately downgraded and left unstaffed. Meanwhile, the busy regional centre is left to disintegrate. Next time Gordon Brown rants on about record NHS investment, remember this. The money is being wasted.


  1. I remember accompanying a friend to a big tatty A&E department in 1998. I was thoroughly impressed: they did triage, decided who was the most urgent and kept everyone else waiting their turn. We waited hours but we knew why.

    I went to a similar but different hospital a few weeks ago and was shocked at how devoid of activity it was. There were nice stools though.

  2. I'm sure it is. Trying to upgrade the NHS from a desk in Whitehall will always ignore local priorities.

  3. They've spent umpty-thousands (Hell, it's proably millions) building a 'super surgery' in my borough, then wondering how they were going to staff it, as none of the smaller surgeries were interested in moving.