Posts Tagged ‘ nhs ’

A personal experience with the NHS

I should start out by saying that I’m not going to be very objective in this blog, as the subject matter is far too personal for me to put at arm’s length – it may also be the first time that some of you are aware of what I’m about to tell you, and for that I apologise too. I’m writing this as a user, albeit one who makes a living as a designer, so it may come across as heart before head.

A few weeks ago, I received a phone call from my father. He’d told me before then that he hadn’t been feeling well, and that he’d been into hospital for some tests. I admit that I hadn’t really given it much thought beyond being concerned that he wasn’t feeling great. The phone call turned into him telling me that he’d been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and I sat in my flat feeling like someone had dropped a rock on my chest for the rest of the night, 500 miles away from him.

Since then, I’ve been watching him undergo treatment within the NHS. My first feelings of optimism regarding the speed in which they wanted to treat him have long since faded into sheer frustration with a system that seems to ensnare those it intends to treat. I’ve seen his hopes raised, only to be dashed days later, and with them, endured the emotional drain that this inevitably results in, on both my father and those around him. I look back at Facebook messages to friends telling them that he’d be out before I got back from London for Christmas, yet here we are in January, and I’m still visiting him in hospital.

I’ve sat at his bedside these past few weeks looking at what’s going on around him, finding it impossible not to pick at the loose threads of the service I see in front of me, and the glaring, crippling problem that rears its head so often – communication. I have no questions or doubts over the clinical capabilities of those treating my father, and every doctor, nurse or other employee I’ve met has been polite, courteous and a credit to their profession. The problem is that it seems – and I emphasise that word, because in this case, the impression is as important as the reality – that everyone is doing their own thing, and that nobody speaks to each other in a meaningful manner. Whether it’s the staff that relentlessly offer my dad his dinner, despite him being fed through a naso-gastric tube, or the fact that he frequently seems to be a key channel of communication between clinical staff, it adds a whole other level of frustration to an already emotionally fraught situation.

In films and TV, you see relatives pacing around in hospitals, waiting for information to appear in the form of that cathartic moment where a doctor walks through the door, and tells them exactly what’s going on, and what’s going to happen, regardless of whether it’s good or bad news. In reality, at least in my experience, this moment hasn’t ever come. I find myself craving ‘news’ or ‘the plan’ like I used to a cigarette on a trans-Atlantic flight, asking him every time I go in what’s going on; what he’s been told since I last saw him. I watch him grow frustrated at the perceived lack of action, and that he’s just being left to sit in a hospital bed, on a drip, feeling bored, annoyed, and isolated. And all that’s on top of the fact that he’s got cancer.

Ultimately, I’m left feeling that the NHS is insitutionally treating my dad like a patient, the host to the cancer more than a person with real emotional needs – like they have no idea how emotionally crushing it is to be told first that you’d be getting out of hospital for Christmas, only to have that snatched from you a couple of days later. Right now, I don’t know what’s going to happen to him, regarding his treatment, his prognosis, whatever. I don’t know who to ask, and I don’t know how I could ask them if I did, because I don’t know where they are or when I can see them. Whether the clinical staff have a plan of action that they’re sticking to with unrelenting focus and determination, I have no idea, and the lack of knowing is the problem at the heart of everything I’ve talked about.

As I said, it’s difficult to discuss this in a measured manner. As a designer, you see a problem, you want to solve it. In this case, my dad’s at the heart of it, and it drives me mad to see this extra burden that’s placed on everyone involved in this shitty, exhausting situation as a result of something as flimsy as poor communication. Sitting writing this, I know that it could be much, much better. I feel like I need to do something about it.