April 24th 2017

Today Alice had a gastroscopy at the hospital. That effectively entails a doctor putting a long tube with a camera on it into Alice’s stomach, accessed through her nose.

For the past few years she’s suffered from chronic stomach pain and has tried various medications to treat it, but nothing has really worked. Last year she’d just about had enough and went to her doctors in Swindon to be referred to the hospital for it. The doctor said he’d send off for the referral, and she should expect an appointment for about 6 months time.

Fast forward 8 months and we were starting to get concerned/annoyed that we’d not heard anything from the hospital about Alice’s appointment date. Eventually, after a bit of pushing, she phoned up her doctor and asked why she hadn’t heard anything yet.

In the 8 months between the original appointment and the phone call Alice and I moved to Cirencester, and had registered with our local GP here. Because Alice was no longer registered to the GP in Swindon, the receptionist wouldn’t speak to Alice about her referral because she was now registered with a different GP. She was told to ring the hospital to find out what was going on.

The hospital in Swindon had never received the referral request from the Swindon GP. The doctor had forgotten to send it.

So, 8 months later, Alice had to start the process again. She got an appointment at the Cirencester GP, who referred her to Cirencester hospital, and five weeks later (today) she had her procedure.

I’m a big fan of the NHS, free healthcare is perhaps one of this country’s greatest accomplishments, and I think that we sometimes take it for granted. I appreciate that we could go in to the hospital today, have her procedure, and walk out without having to pay a penny (even parking was free) – I was just frustrated by the incompetence of the doctor who never sent the referral letter in the first place.

Although, it doesn’t seem like it would’ve saved us much time. I heard some of the other patients in the endoscopy suite talking, and one of them had to come from Winchcombe to Cirencester hospital because neither Gloucester or Cheltenham hospital do gastroscopies, another lady lived in Swindon but came to Ciren because the Swindon wait list was 6 months. “It’s probably because of all of the cuts to the NHS,” she said.

Now, I don’t know enough about politics to know if that is true, but it’s worth thinking about.

It’s brilliant, but it’s broken, and because of that broken system Alice has had to wait the best part of a year to have this procedure done. And she has health anxiety so she’s been worrying about this for a year, as well as being in constant pain.

She did so well today though. She was so nervous, but she came out of it saying that she had nothing to be nervous about – it was fine.

She said that the only way she can describe the procedure is “it’s like having someone put a tube down your nose” which is, of course, pretty accurate.

I’m proud that she did so well, but I’m angry that it took so long, although I’m thankful that the NHS is there in the first place.

Until tomorrow, I just hope the government don’t break it.




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