EDITORS COMMENT: It’s Mayday for the NHS

Cartoon by Holly Huxter

I write this from home, 2 weeks into a pretty serious virus which has kept me in bed the whole time. It’s pretty crap. It takes getting ill to realise just how much there is to miss out on in the space of a short time at university: Roses, house parties, even just going for a coffee with friends. And, the icing on this delicious illness cake is that there is no medical treatment for a virus. All you can do is rest. In our busy student lives, where we expect quick solutions to everything– coffee to keep us up for a late revision session, alcohol to help us forget our worries, Deliveroo when you can’t be bothered to shop– to be told that a doctor can do nothing for you sucks. All you can do is watch back-to-back episodes of ‘Friends’ and drown in Lemsip and tissues.

But the worst part has been the incompetence of the NHS. At my practice, you have to fill in a form, which a GP will look over and get back to you. Firstly, it’s annoying enough that you cannot just call up reception and speak to someone. It’s all so bureaucratic it has to be done on a form. Anyway, four days after I filled this form out, I finally get a call from a GP saying it’s just a virus, there’s no point having an appointment. How do they know it’s just a virus without physically seeing me and actually giving me a check-up? It turns out the practice had a massive influx of patients on the day I filled the form out and it was taking them a while to get through everyone. This in itself is worrying– what if I had been a more vulnerable patient? They should not have such a terrible staff to patient ratio. People’s lives are at stake.

Next up, I start having breathing problems. I call 111, and they tell me to go to A&E and off I go, still feeling terrible from this virus. The doctor I see there seems more concerned with my puffy eyes and breathing than the virus, and prescribes medicine for allergies. A few days later, I’m still really feeling ill, so I go home. One morning I wake up and can barely speak or swallow, my throat is so swollen. We call up my old doctor and they squeeze me in for an appointment that very morning. He now says that all the allergy stuff was a red herring, I’ve definitely got something more serious than a mere virus, and a blood test is done. Finally, a proper check-up after two weeks.

Then you look at the news, and see that Theresa May has overruled Cabinet Ministers who were calling for more doctors from overseas to fill empty NHS posts; that non-EU doctors are being denied visas under May’s policy to reduce net immigration. This just seems counterproductive. Surely patient safety and fixing doctor shortages is more of a pressing issue than the Brexit agenda? If empty posts need filling, and there are people willing to do it, what kind of backward government says no, risking the health of the very people it is supposed to serve? Of course, Brexit was the will of the people, and May is answering to that, but surely well-being is more important than isolationism.

There should not be such a disparity in medical care across the country, and Theresa May should be focusing on healthcare as a top priority. It is unacceptable that at one practice, they did not have the staff to meet patient demand and wrote my illness off as not serious, that at A&E they treated two of my symptoms in isolation, and that it took going to my old practice back home to finally get the quick and effective medical advice I needed.
A stronger, better funded NHS means a healthier country, which in turn would save the government money. If overseas doctors can help solve this issue, then Theresa May should bite the bullet and let them come.

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