With the best of intentions, NHS staff can end up complicating thingsby Peter Kellner / January 7, 2015 / Leave a comment
In this blog I break one of my own rules. I shall argue from anecdote rather than statistics. However, the anecdote is my own, and it relates to one of the claims being made about this winter’s problems with the NHS.
Last summer I had eight encounters with the NHS in 10 days. This episode showed Britain’s “national religion”, as Nigel Lawson once called it, at its best and worst. It is yet another example of how the NHS could save both money and lives. And sheds light on the current pressures on accident and emergency departments. I supported, and still do, the last Labour government’s decision to increase National Insurance to give the NHS more money. But, as William Blake once wrote, those who wish to improve things must do so in “minute particulars.”
Doctors have been telling journalists that 111 staff send too many patients to A&E. After my experience, I can believe it; but I am not sure that 111 staff are to blame.
1. After some weeks of gradually increasing backache, I contacted my local surgery. It now offers telephone consultations. An appointment was fixed for the curiously precise time of 3.21pm. To my surprise the doctor rang at exactly 3.21pm. He diagnosed inflammation and prescribed some pills. He also said there was an outside chance of another, more serious, cause. As a precautionary measure, I should come in for a blood test.
2. I went to the surgery, collected my prescription and had my blood test. Over the next few days, my backache eased, but I began suffering from possible indigestion. I put it down to over-indulgence on a foreign trip.
3. A week later my doctor rang. He said the blood tests had come back. Everything was fine, except for my potassium reading, which was too high. He was “99 per cent certain” this was a false reading, because the blood had probably been “lying around” before going to laboratory at the local hospital. But, to be safe, he advised me to have a second blood test, but at the hospital, not the surgery.
4. The following morning I went to the hospital. I was…