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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Claire Rayner has some well-justified criticisms of the NHS and some suggestions to improve it.

NHS at 60: In the end I had to go private
Article in the Sunday Telegraph


"In 1988 she suffered chest pains. Efforts to contact a local doctor at 3am led instead to a locum service, which insisted she find her NHS number before any help could be given. "In the end we gave up and got through the night, but next day we signed up with a private GP," she says.

The chest pains revealed a hole in her diaphragm, while arthritis has since resulted in her having five knee operations and surgery to both shoulders. In 2002, breast cancer led to a double mastectomy. She used an NHS hospital on two occasions and was infected by the superbug MRSA.

"The tissue on my knee suddenly split, and I had to go to Accident and Emergency," she says. "For four hours, I was left in a highly infected room with a totally exposed wound. For at least an hour I could see the doctor sitting gossiping with a colleague.

"When she came over her hair wasn't tied back, then she used the wrong kind of gauze to patch me up. I felt so angry. When I discovered afterwards that I had MRSA I was appalled, but I wasn't all that surprised."

Now, she and her husband, Des, who is 80, avoid the NHS. "I have a list of hospitals with lower infection rates that I would go to if I was desperate, but we avoid it when we can. I'm embarrassed and ashamed to admit it, but I had to put my health first."

Determined to use her public profile as Patients Association president to achieve better services, Mrs Rayner urges the NHS's political masters to learn from the values and standards she saw in the service's early years."

"Now, as the NHS is about to turn 60, Mrs Rayner offers hospitals a three-point prescription to return the service to robust health.

"Firstly I would get rid of the nurses' station on the ward. It is a hiding place for them to hang around gossiping. Secondly, I would get rid of the targets. Third, get rid of all the middle layers of management and all the deceit to meet targets that happens as a result.""