The NHS for When You Just Want to be Sure

I’d been having pains in my chest for a day or so. So, on Saturday morning, I went along to our local A & E at UCL for a checkup. I knew they’d be busy so I took a book and the morning’s copy of The Guardian along to while away the time. I hadn’t been there 10 minutes when I was called in by an extremely kindly nurse who responded to my comment about the speed of response and that I felt a bit like a fraud by saying that, “At your age and with your symptoms, we don’t take any risks”. So I told him what had been happening including a gym session a days or so before.

I was asked return to the waiting room where, soon after, I was called in by another extremely kindly nurse who did an ECG. Again I returned to the waiting room, this time to be called back to give a couple of blood samples. Again, I went back to the waiting room to be called back, by yet another extremely kindly nurse for an X ray of my heart. It seems that I have one! Again I returned to the waiting room, along with constant reassurances, to await the results.

A short while later and in seamless manner, I was called in by someone who seemed more senior, who went through everything for me. My heart could that that of someone considerably younger, my blood tests registered normal, although, as one had clotted, the sample would have to be retaken. So, back into the waiting room to await a recall for the blood test. Not too long a wait and I was called back, again along with apologies, before again returning room. This time, I suspected, for a slightly longer wait. And so it proved to be.

Eventually, I was called back in the by senior member of staff who told me that I was fine. He did, however, say that if I experienced any shortness of breath, I should get back in touch immediately. All this, courteously, seamlessly and relatively speedily from all the staff, when it was all a false alarm. What was evident from all this was a system with an ethos inculcated at all levels and within each and every member of staff.

Now, some years ago, if I remember, the government of the day had a business man to look at the NHS to see what it could improve as an organisation. If my experience is anything to go by, they could have saved themselves the effort. What the NHS has in ethos and effectiveness can’t be measured on a balance sheet. It can, however, be measured by what it means to the country as a whole and, in this case, to one person who just wanted to be sure.

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