Next time you are in an NHS hospital just pause and take note of the people in there. Yes there are the staff and the patients, but there is also another group who make up almost the same numbers as the patients but who are often neglected and forgotten. I’m referring to the army of wives, husbands, partners, sons, daughters, mums, dads, friends who accompany us when we go to hospital.
Before my cancer diagnosis I was always quite nonchalant about any visit to hospital (thankfully they were rare occurrences) and I was happy to go alone, armed with a copy of War and Peace to distract me whilst I waited. Having worked in and around hospitals for 25 years I felt comfortable being there. All that changed recently when armed with that same naive confidence I assured my husband that no he needn’t take time off work to accompany me to my CT scan. Little did I realise that I would received the results immediately and that day would turn out to be the worst day of my life as I discovered that my cancer had spread. I received that news alone and then had to drive home in a state of shock, despair and tears. So now he comes and is with me for every appointment. But at what cost? Usually he works from home, breaking off to go to the hospital with me. That would be fine if the appointments were on time, but they never are. I totally understand why that is but the time he is losing and having to make back at work is huge.
This week I went to hospital for 2 injections, in the end it took about 15 mins, but we were at the hospital for over 4 hours! Four hours plus travelling time that my husband has to make back. And it isn’t just him, most people there had someone with them. I know that not all of them work, but not only are we losing productivity by me not being at work, it is doubled by him not being at work either. What is so frustrating is that the reason we were there so long was due to a system error, I was on the wrong sort of approval mechanism, the injections weren’t there, my blood results weren’t there, my notes weren’t there, my scan results weren’t there, my notes haven’t been uploaded to the computer, the computer is going slow, the computer won’t work – take your pick, it always seems to be one of these. The staff are apologetic and struggle to do their best, I’m not sure if the hold ups are due to lack of staff, but they appear to be the result of strange system foibles that really could be sorted out.
Productivity is something always mentioned when new money is put into the NHS, but are we looking at the wider cost to the economy by the way some of our systems operate and the time both the patients and their carers waste just hanging around needlessly in the NHS?