Mention the National Health Service and you generally get one of two reactions. Either a tale of woe preceded by the inevitable tutting and eye rolling, or, occasionally, praise. With the majority of people having an experience to draw upon, whether personally or through a family member or friend, healthcare can, at times, be a controversial conversation piece.
As a holistic therapist, and lover of all things natural I had successfully avoided doctors for 30 something years when having a car accident added to my previous health problems and I found myself unable to walk. My local NHS hospital completed numerous x-rays, MRI scans and tests and then pronounced there was nothing they could do for me. My consultant explained that in years past, with a scan like mine, they would have surgically intervened but as they now recognised a huge proportion of back surgery does not work they tend to leave ‘well’ alone where they could. I was told to take up knitting to keep my mind off the fact I was now a wheelchair user. I was given physiotherapy for 6 weeks before my NHS physio announced I was a waste of resources as I would never be properly on my feet again with the damage I had sustained and I was discharged. Now that could have been the end of my story but I am stubborn and feeling I understood my spinal damage was not my only problem, a fact I felt my consultant wasn’t acknowledging, I spent hours and hours obsessively googling until I found a treatment I thought might, over time, help to stabilise my pelvis and decrease my high pain levels. Excitedly going back to see my consultant with print outs, facts and success stories I was crushed to be met with scorn when he told me I was being ridiculous, he had never heard of the treatment and it wasn’t offered on the NHS furthermore I had taken up valuable appointment time which could have gone to someone he could actually help. “Go away and stop bothering me” was not the actual phrase but I got the gist.
Momentarily deflated, but never one to give up I decided to contact all orthopaedic units of every NHS hospital hoping to find one who could offer just a little bit of positivity. My search widened and after much negativity stumbled across Birmingham Orthopaedic Hospital who had not only heard of the treatment, they offered it and agreed to see me for a consultation. Subsequently for the past few years I have been under the care of Dr Ketkar and I can’t begin to express my gratitude that he not only agreed to undertake the regular treatment I required but gave me something far more valuable than medical intervention and drugs; hope. He has always believed in my ability to progress physically and this has made me focus fully on the positive.
Now strictly speaking when I was discharged Thursday it could have been the last I would see of him and I was expecting this news. He had told me last month my body has been through so much it won’t cope with any further treatments without a good long break but surprisingly he still plans to regularly assess me and knowing I have his support makes a huge difference to my mental and emotional health. I know should any new medical procedures come out that would help me he would get in touch as he genuinely cares about his patients.
So is this a rare occurrence to find someone caring in the so called ‘caring’ profession? We all know doctors and nurses work long hours with not enough resources, is it any wonder that a few become jaded. Would my NHS physio so brutally have discharged me, crushing hope of recovery if she had a choice or were her hands bound with protocol? Did my consultant realise, as a mother of three young boys, how his negative words and pessimistic outlook of my future would impact upon my mental health? Was I just unlucky? After all a poor bedside manner does not mean these people are bad at their jobs. To be a good surgeon I guess you have to be good, well, surgically, boosting someone’s self esteem is probably not in the job description. I believe this is where holistic therapists come into their own, often more nurturing, I do feel orthodox and complementary medicine can and should exist side by side covering every aspect of a person’s physical, emotional and mental health.
I don’t like generalisation but on the whole we can be rather judgemental. What is it that makes us want to label everything? NHS care can be ‘bad’, private care can be ‘good’. Should we, could we, be open minded and not expect long waiting lists, poor care and bad attitudes, then we may be pleasantly surprised?
If I had listened to my original consultant and used this to demonstrate my experience with the NHS I could easily have tarnished the opinions of others. Yes I was met with a distinct lack of compassion in my local hospital, but, 80 miles away I have met the most amazing team of people who go above and beyond their role
What I am trying, in a roundabout way to say is do not judge, expect or let the opinions of others cloud you. Go into every situation and greet every person you meet with an open heart and you may just be pleasantly surprised.
I would love to hear of your experiences.