I don’t anticipate this will be a very popular post at a time when it’s all about positivity towards the healthcare sector, and I certainly mean no offence with this. However, I feel it’s important to say and I want those who are feeling this way to know that they’re not alone. That I see you, that you’re not forgotten. Because all across the world, with the praise and focus on the NHS and other health services, there will be people struggling with the positivity.
The Loudest Claps, The Brightest Rainbows
Clap for the NHS. Clap for the staff, the doctors, nurses, admins, carers, surgeons, specialists. As chalk-drawn rainbows adorn pavements and colourful cartoon rainbows are stuck in windows, you can’t go far without seeing rainbows and the letters ‘NHS’. Countless companies and services are offering deals, discounts and freebies for NHS staff. The newspapers are recounting tales of heroic staff on the frontline. I hope most of the cheering is genuine rather than jumping on a bandwagon and doing it for the sake of it just to keep up appearances.
But amidst the clapping and colourful decor, let’s not forget those that have been fobbed off, misdiagnosed, let down or harmed.
There’s likely to be a tidal wave of Coronavirus-related litigation heading towards the NHS in the UK. In this instance, however, it’s my personal opinion that much of the current failings comes down to decisions made at a government level, and I won’t go into that here because I’ve already become incredibly angry and heartbroken with it all.
There is a difference, however, between the staff on the frontline and the NHS itself. There is a difference between the staff working in the NHS and the government legislation, guidelines and decisions made at a higher level that affect each hospital and doctor’s surgery. There is a difference between staff generally, and staff as individuals.
Yes, we are lucky to have the NHS. But it is paid for by higher taxes and now, in this time of crisis, it’s amazing to see how many millions are being raised and donated to ensure staff have the PPE they need.
But before this point, we know the many failings of our NHS. We know the backwards nature of some of the initiatives, the wasted money, the head honchos taking home huge pay packets while student doctors drown in debt. We know the delays, the errors made, the misdiagnoses, the negligence, the lack of care, the restricted tests and treatments.
There are some truly wonderful staff. But I feel so blessed for each and every kind, open-minded, effective doctor, surgeon or nurse I meet because they’re in the minority. I’ve sadly experienced, on the whole, more staff that have been detrimental in some way.
The nightmare nurses I’ve written about before in the wards that have made me feel lower than low. The mean receptionists, the missing results, the referrals never done. The doctors who have fobbed me off for years, the ones that have misdiagnosed, the ones that have resulted in my health getting to the state it’s in now. The fight to be believed, the fight to get tests, the uphill battle to get treatments that are being limited or aren’t even available despite widespread use in other countries. The many doctors disbelieving bowel issues over 8 years.
The doctor that refused to believe a chest x-ray, delaying the diagnosis and treatment for lung disease. Many, including myself, have had no option but to seek private care and pay out of pocket for tests, treatments and surgeries; some have to raise hundreds of thousands and go to another country to get lifesaving treatments that aren’t available here in the UK on the basis of cost. The surgeon that left me to die last year, if it weren’t for the registrar that spoke up and requested the support of another surgeon. The list is a long one so I’ll leave it there.
I can’t help but think of all those with similar experiences. And then the families of those that have suffered or lost their lives too soon. I’m not talking about accidents that happen as par for the course, human errors that sadly do happen. I’m talking about things that could and should have been avoidable, treatment that should have been better, care that should have been provided.
The campaigning to ‘save the NHS’ and the political decisions around testing, treatment and the lockdown have, in my opinion, been primarily based on money, not saving lives. This adds another level of bitterness to the positivity.
Great In Theory…
The issue is that our NHS is great in theory. Much like anything, you can’t stereotype and assume the same thing applies to the whole of the NHS or any healthcare provider/system. It’s neither wholly good nor wholly bad. It’s made up of individual staff that treat patients, and of individuals that make the policies. This isn’t about comparing to other countries without healthcare and access to the types of modern medicine we have. Of course we are very fortunate. But when billions are pumped in to the healthcare system, and so many fall through the gaps and are failed, we have to wonder what’s going wrong. So many meet countless rude staff, face ignorance or neglect, or sadly lose their lives.
With the coronavirus pandemic, most scheduled procedures, appointments, tests and surgeries have been cancelled or postponed. There’s talk of A&E departments being quiet, and more people suffering in silence because they’re either afraid to go to hospital with the virus risk or afraid to be seen as a nuisance and a burden. The new hospital built to care for coronavirus patients has treated less than one hundred. People can’t access COVID-19 tests. Public are told to avoid seeking help for coronavirus symptoms unless they feel their life is at risk. No advice or recommendation has been given as to the public wearing face masks when they go out, despite findings of their potential benefit from other countries.
As the numbers increase with the UK having the highest death rates in Europe, there’s talk of the lockdown being gradually lifted. There’s something very twisted about this picture.
But this isn’t even about all of that. This is about a full-on focus on positivity that serves to deepen divides, to cause offence, and to increase feelings of resentment, anger, disappointment or guilt.
I can still acknowledge the negatives while being grateful to the staff and to have the NHS. We clap and draw rainbows and give thanks because there are a lot of people involved in this effort doing wonderful things. It’s their job and they’re paid to do it, but they should have the training and equipment they need to safely and effectively do those jobs. I fully believe student doctors need more appropriate access to training without getting in debt for starters. Many healthcare workers are in need of better working conditions, adequate PPE, better hours, better pay, better everything. But we but we know the failings of the NHS and we know it could, and should, be better.
A Bitter Aftertaste
All of the praise, however, can leave a bitter taste and I’m seeing growing discord among those who have been letdown by individuals or the NHS on the whole. There are those that have been mentally and physically affected themselves. There are families who have lost loved ones due to policies, procedures, narrow-mindedness, errors or neglect.
There will be people in other countries feeling the same way, going through a similar push-pull situation of giving thanks but remembering the negatives and not-so-good times, too. The people feeling like this and hesitant to ladle on the praise end up feeling resentful and angry, then guilty for feeling that way in the first place. It’s okay to think of the negatives and not feel like clapping when you’ve been let down or harmed, or if a friend or loved one has suffered.
I’ve already had some comments on social media from those who are feeling this way.
It’s okay to feel however you’re feeling right now. You’re not alone in finding the claps too loud and the rainbows too colourful.
To me, I’m seeing rainbows and hearing claps and thinking of the positives but beyond just ‘the NHS’. I’m thinking of the solidarity, of how we will get through this, of how there will be brighter days ahead. I’m paying tribute to those struggling, to those unable to clap. I’m thinking of all those at on the front line, at work, raising money at home, volunteering. I’m thinking of all those keeping things moving, keeping us safe and keeping the world turning.
Yes, we need to come together in this time of crisis. Yes, let’s praise our NHS and other healthcare systems and show support. But the rainbows can’t paste over a lifetime of let downs and loss. Please don’t forget those and their families that have been so badly affected. And please don’t forget those that even now are being pushed aside and forgotten in the coronavirus storm.