Monday, February 15, 2010

Credit where it's due

They didn't print my letter in the Times - see 8 Feb. I got edged out by the present Chair of the BMA and the past Chief Executive of the NHS, wouldn't be the first time and why would anyone want to listen to what a patient had to say anyway? At least I get to keep a few friends now and am bundling up NHS commenting blogs to send to said friends and readers who from time to time have included the present Secretary of State for Health so put that in your pipe and smoke it Mr Editor of the Times.

Many of you will know that over the past year or so I have spent three weeks in a French hospital, another three in a German one and now three days in a UK one. That three days is the latest of many experiences of UK health institutions with kids, parents, partner and yours truly. France has included my stay and two, week long stays for spouse. So I am going to do a league table with comments and then send it to those that might listen.

Marks out of 10 as I can count that far still

Access: Getting seen in the first place

France - 9.5 although I am told it's hard to get an eye-test
Germany - 9.5
UK - 2. The present government have done loads to get waiting times down and pushed money at the problem but it is just not acceptable that 26 miles over the Channel you get an appointment for a secondary referral in a day or two but here we congratulate ourselves on getting it down to 18 weeks

Seeing the right person

France and Germany - 9.5 - sorry just can't bring myself to give the perfect 10, I would be no good as a Winter Olympics judge. You get to see the person you and/or your GP have decided you should see, the organ-grinder not the monkey

UK - 2. Even after 18 weeks wait, you rarely see a consultant, most often a registrar, but even just an SHO sometimes; this in my very direct experience leads to poor diagnosis

Waiting for things to happen

France and Germany- 9.5 again, very little waiting in corridors or waiting rooms
UK - 2 again - oh my God those corridors and depressing rooms

The buildings, furniture and fittings

France and Germany - 9. I did go on a tour of France, Germany and the Netherlands once, looking at hospital buildings, so have seen a few more than those me and mine have stayed in.

UK - 3. A bit generous that but I know we are getting a super new hospital in Birmingham (the reason for that trip) which I fully accept will be an 8 at least. Let's face the facts in France and Germany I had my own room with en-suite bathroom, all nicely decorated and bright; the most I would have had to put up with was a two-bed room with en-suite bathroom. Last week in the UK, I was in a six bed bay with no door; there were three toilets down a corridor for 28 people of mixed gender; no shower and not very easy to use sinks. We had to leave cardboard containers with our pee in it to be tested and there it was sitting next to Jim's and Elsie's; named up of course so we all knew what each others pee looked like.


France and Germany - 9. As above you see the top person and then she/he keeps popping in every day to make you feel loved. The real question is their skill of course. I can't fault the ones I saw, or Stewart saw but can't give a national judgement; I don't think anyone doubts that docs in France and Germany are well trained.

UK - a difficult one for me; the doctors I saw originally score nil points; the ones in the cancer centre I would put on an equal footing to France and Germany, so 9 for them but a few more visits to patients on the wards might not go amiss.

NB: we pay our doctors loads more than they do in Germany and France.


Germany - 9
France - 9
UK - 9.5

At last we come first! The UK nurses do have the advantage of speaking my language which helps but they were brilliant last week. They worked their socks off, they did seem to be under more pressure than their continental counterparts and that wasn't because there were less of them but more because of the layout and the kit. I had to keep calling them to sort my pump out as the infusions kept stopping and that meant more hours in the hospital, not good for me or them. Never had a pump fail in Perigueux or Coswig. What was really good was that however busy they were they never failed to respond to a question or to give a helpful word; in the middle of a busy medicines round they would stop and have a chat and put your mind at ease. Didn't get that abroad but that was because of the language barrier really, if you can't get get passed ca va; oui ca va bien you are in a bit of trouble communications wise. The German "do you have any vishes" was slightly more challenging.


France pre-op - 9.5 - Five courses twice a day, included duck and lovely fish and the lady who shared my room one day said that in Bergerac hospital they have a wine list! Post-op - 2; it suddenly changed, I don't know if this was because I was a fatty or maybe it was something about protein not being good as it builds up scar tissue but it changed to a strange diet of mashed potato and bland pasta

Germany - 2 wurst and wurst and lots of it at funny times

UK - 9. It wasn't bad at all and I liked the system they had for bringing all the options round on a trolley so you could go and have a look and a sniff at what was on offer. They always had nice things like baked potatoes and salad if you didn't fancy the full works; the full works when I had them were tasty and warm.


France and Germany - 9

UK - 9.5 - how about that then, I would leave aside the toilets and only give them a 5 as that mouldering pee was not attractive or I suspect hygienic. The level of cleaning on the wards in the UK was the best.


France and Germany 9.5
UK - 2

Sorry but you just cant sleep or recover as well when you are in a room with six people and there is only a thin curtain between you and the others - if you are lucky. In Birmingham the lights are too bright, there isn't a door to the corridor and however much the staff creep about, and they do, trying to keep quiet if they have to tend to one of your neighbours you hear and see them. Sleep almost nil


France and Germany - 8 - not plentiful but free

UK - 1 - reasonably plentiful but more expensive than big commercial sites, we parked in the centre of Dresden in an underground commercial carpark to go sight-seeing; it was run by the same company who run the local hospital one here; we paid 0.75 euros there for an hour and £2.20 here .. in a hospital, because I am sick. Sort it out!


France - 9
Germany 8.5 - only the wurst let it down
UK - 4 and my early experience C minus, minus , minus as one of my old teachers used to mark the stuff she was really depressed about.


  1. Try writing another letter to The Times.
    Make it short and succinct.
    In other words, don't give them a reason not to print it.
    You deliver your message very well indeed.
    Mind you, you probably have plenty of competition in complaining about the NHS, it would seem.
    The public health care system here is excellent in my personal view. A neighbour was in hospital for 15 weeks last year ...
    5 admissions all up and I was enormously impressed at the care he was given in all directions from one of the health divisions in Melbourne.

  2. Mary- would just like to add to Mike's comment really, that by far the most important factor about hospital for me was the family support I got, as i felt so powerless.
    The other thing, which was a less public but same purpose sketchbook/diary I kept. It kept me sane.

    Well done, Jean xxxxx