Posts Tagged ‘NHS

24
Jan
09

C4 commissions a new reality TV show based up someone’s rectum?

Hooray for the Government which this month is rolling out its ambitious project to encourage patients to treat themselves.

Health Secretary Alan Johnson believes that hospitals can drive down costs by putting the Expert Patient Programme in place, which involves patients with chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma, multiple sclerosis and arthritis learning how to treat themselves.

Just to clarify, by “treat themselves”, the Government is talking in medical terms. They’re not proposing offering people lessons on how to buy themselves a bunch of flowers, a box of chocolates or a ready meal from Marks and Spencer.

And “Expert Patients” aren’t people who have a never-ending supply of dressing gowns, slippers, pyjamas and weak orange squash by their bedside, either: they’re well-informed individuals who know a great deal about their condition and how to treat it (there is, of course, a thin line between “well-informed” and “smart arse with a sheaf of print-outs from the internet”. If you’re going to be a know-all, please don’t feel the need to go and see your GP to boast about it. Stay at home and be ill in silence).

According to the Department of Health, in hospitals where the programme has been tested, patient visits have been reduced by almost 20 per cent. What the figures don’t reveal is if the morgues have been almost 20 per cent busier, but that’s New Labour for you.

The Government has finally realised that hospital doctors are far too busy dealing with NHS red tape to see ill people, especially boring ill people who’ve STILL got the same thing wrong with them that they had 20 years ago.

Treating people who don’t get better is just so damnably depressing.

And it’s not just these chronically ill time-wasters who are hampering the NHS – in the olden days, euthanasia was practically mandatory if you’d had a cough for more than three days. Today you even have to keep old people alive – it’s political correctness gone mad.

The health department has high hopes that when the programme is successfully rolled out across the entire country, no one will ever need to go to hospital again, meaning that doctors can spend their days concentrating on more important matters such as playing golf, sunbathing in the Bahamas and window-shopping for Land Rover Discoveries.

The DoH is keen to put an end to the “handout culture” that pervades the NHS and sees patients given “what they want, when they want”. It’s time those pesky asthmatics and diabetics learn that inhalers and insulin don’t grow on trees.

If it’s cost-cutting they’re after, the NHS could do worse than show potentially chronically ill patients (those who visit their GP more than twice a year) back-to-back episodes of Casualty and Holby City, which illustrate just how much of a downer it is to be ill in a state-run hospital.

Casualty used to be an almost-factual representation of what happened in a busy accident and emergency unit – now the staff spend half their time avoiding being trapped down mine shafts/in bomb-struck trains/under collapsing bridges and the other half either sleeping with a consultant or going bananas and being hauled in front of disciplinary committees about their conduct/that patient they killed.

Everyone on the ward has a life story they could flog to Take A Break and every operation involves the insertion of a microscopic camera into an orifice, even if the patient is just having a piece of glass removed from their toe.

On this note, with all those camera crews already in situ, it’s a wonder that Channel 4 hasn’t commissioned a reality TV show based up someone’s rectum or inside their urethra. Perhaps they already have – it couldn’t be worse than Celebrity Big Brother.

Watching Casualty or Holby City is like sitting through an elongated party political broadcast by a private healthcare provider. As the credits roll at the end of every episode, you’re resolving never to go into hospital again unless you’re on a trolley with a tag on your toe heading for the fridges.

When it comes to medicine in the old doctor-patient relationship, I’m kind of banking on the doctor knowing more than I do about what’s wrong with me: after all, one of us went to university to study medicine for seven years and the other one passes out if anyone so much as mentions eye operations.

You have to wonder what else is in the NHS pipeline.

The introduction of DIY surgery kits? Incentives for people to try and die early from diseases which don’t require any medication? Or perhaps grants for the long-term sick to cut out the middle man, schedule a relaxing holiday in Switzerland and come back in a six foot by three foot casket. Preferably before they blow too much cash on prescription morphine.

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15
Jan
09

My implant hell, or how I spent £7,000 in the name of vanity*

Finally, the wait is over.

After two and a half years of monthly dental treatment, financed by the sale of three kidneys (one each from me and the kids) and a second mortgage, my teeth are now complete.

I now have Tom Cruise’s stature AND his smile, and now must only find myself a Hollywood wife, a Nazi costume and an unshakeable belief that an galactic overlord came to earth 75 million years ago and infected us all with alien juice to complete the metamorphosis.

Despite my anally-retentive dental routine, three years ago I realised that something was rotten in the state of Denmark, namely a tooth towards the back of my mouth which throbbed so insistently that in some ways it became a surrogate wristwatch, marking out the seconds, minutes and hours in which I could neither sleep, eat or speak.

I knew my infected tooth needed immediate attention, but just to make sure my self-diagnosis was correct, I waited another six months to be on the safe side – there’s no point rushing into these things.

By the time I crawled to the dentist, my drug habit dwarfed Pete Doherty’s and my tooth had taken on a life of its own; one that involved causing me as much agony as possible – a bit like Dire Straits’ Brothers in Arms album stuck on repeat.

Having finally been forced by those around me to go to the dentist and undergone an appointment where I had ignobly burst into tears and had to be sent home to calm down like an over-emotional schoolgirl, I was finally treated and felt the true glory of a life without pain – right up until the moment I paid the bill.

From then on, it was downhill all the way. My calcium-leeching children had sucked all the goodness from my bones in the womb, leaving practically every tooth as precariously wobbly and unreliable as Britney Spears beside the punch bowl at a playschool barbecue.

The dentist broke it to me gently (at first with pliers and then with a bandsaw) and told me that to sort out my teeth I was going to have to have numerous treatments over several years which would include deep root canal, bone regeneration, surgery, extraction, antibiotics and implants.

I was so shocked that I didn’t even ask why I needed breast surgery. It seemed like the least of my worries.

My plan to have the troublesome tooth treated and then skulk away to my lair, tail between legs and floss between teeth until a check-up that I’d agreed to attend without any real intention of ever doing so, evaporated to dust.

Suddenly, I was spending more time with my dentist than I did with my friends and loved ones, which was a blessing in disguise for my friends and loved ones, because for quite some time, all I could bang on about was my teeth.

In a bid to bring my mouth up to 21st century standards, or even 18th century standards, I have spent around £7,000, with £4,000 of that spent on just four teeth (two implants, two porcelain veneers) – muggers from now on will ignore my wallet (emptied by dentists) and head straight for my gnashers.

I may be in debt for the rest of my life, but at least I can eat an apple. If it’s mashed up. And eaten through a straw.

I think the highlight of my treatment was the removal of an infected tooth without anaesthetic (you can’t anaesthetise infected tissue, as I found out after I’d been strapped to Sweeney Todd’s chair and watched him swallow the key to the door) in a scene reminiscent of the kind of back-street dentistry which went on in Dickens’ day. All that was missing was a match girl freezing to death in the corner and a rat the size of a Jack Russell looking on dispassionately as I stoically bore the pain in the only way I knew how; by screaming like a toddler in a shoe shop.

But it hasn’t all been bad. Very often it’s been bloody awful.

Along the way there’s been blood, sweat, tears, laughter (albeit ironic laughter when my dentist asked me if I was planning any holidays and I told him that I thought this year I’d stick to just paying for his instead) pain, infections and financial ruin. Mainly just the tears, the blood and the bankruptcy, to be honest, but to focus on the positive, I now have enough titanium rods in my mouth to audition for a role as a villain in James Bond.

With hindsight, I am glad that I had the work done and I’m sure that when they’re old enough for me to explain the situation to them, the children will understand why Christmas stopped for them in 2005.

Look on the bright side, I’ll tell them. I had my teeth done on the NHS – if I’d gone private you wouldn’t have any vital organs left.

* Maybe I should have qualified – when I said ‘implants’ I meant teeth, not tits. Sorry if I mislead you. I’m not sorry. But you knew that.




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