Helen Martin: NHS no-shows mean that we all miss out

Too many patients fail to turn up for day surgery
Too many patients fail to turn up for day surgery
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ONE of the greatest win-win developments in the NHS must be the increase in operations that can be performed in day surgery. Patients get home on the same day and budget savings must be enormous

Following a pre-assessment check last month I had an op in St John’s day surgery last week. I was admitted at 7.30am, in theatre by about 10am, back in my four-bed day ward by 11am (or earlier . . . how would I know having had a general anaesthetic?), had a fresh, tasty sandwich and tea, a post-op visit from the anaesthetist and surgeon, and was back home by 2pm!

Diane Abbott has been a victim of online abuse

Diane Abbott has been a victim of online abuse

My little ward was friendly, spotlessly clean (St John’s have their own NHS cleaners, not agency contracts) and staff and patients were on first-name terms. I felt so looked after, it was almost like a spa day.

What was missing? Patients. There should have been four admissions that morning but only two of us turned up. Naturally the staff were not in a position to discuss that in depth but I did manage to wangle out of them that no-shows were not uncommon.

Some might have good reason – dementia perhaps? For others, a home emergency, or a transport issue? But then, wouldn’t they have phoned? Perhaps their appointment letter had gone astray, but most, if not all, would have had their pre-assessment check in previous weeks by which time their op date was confirmed.

The surgeon, anaesthetist, theatre time, theatre staff, ward staff were all there, ready and waiting. Did these absentees realise how much NHS money they were wasting? Not only that but someone else could have been scheduled for that surgery. If no-shows are a regular occurrence, it’s no wonder we have waiting lists.

And it’s not just operations. In England missed GP appointments cost the NHS £1 billion. In Scotland, hundreds of thousands of patients every year scheduled for medical appointments are DNAs. That’s nothing to do with genetic identification, it means “Did Not Attend”.

And as we all know, the pressure on A&E departments is increased by people who are not presenting with emergencies, but with minor ailments that a pharmacist could competently deal with.

So while political parties rage at each other for not spending enough on the health service or we are sold the idea that it’s all down to poor levels of management (all of which could be true), it’s also time we had a look in the mirror. In the United States, the predominantly private health care system costs much more and delivers far less. Those who believe the more expensive something is, the better it is bound to be, are completely misled when it comes to medicine.

We are blessed to have the NHS. The downside of a free-at-the-point-of-need service is that some people take it for granted, seeing free health care as a God-given right. It is not. And it won’t continue in this country if we continue to abuse it.

Draconian measures such as fines, or “black-listing” would be impractical and heartless, and solving no-shows is only a small part of the funding challenge.

But if ever there was a need for a government campaign, this is it - showing what life would be like without the NHS and shaming those who don’t respect or value it.

Get your scores on the door

SINCE the Official Monster Raving Loony Party was established in 1983 by Screaming Lord Sutch I’ve always seen it as a joke.

But with the current mess of UK and world politics, not to mention the lack of constructive opposition in Holyrood, I think the Loonies could be coming into their own, and should set up a Scottish branch.

In three days their candidate, The Incredible Flying Brick, is standing in the Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election triggered by the resignation of Labour’s Tristram Hunt, and has no chance of winning.

But what the OMRLP does offer is the opportunity to register votes of no confidence in the traditional parties and system. Ballot papers don’t offer a “none of the above” box and spoiled papers don’t count.

But a vote for OMRLP is counted and logs what many of us believe. Our political party system is broken and serves itself rather than the people.

Abbott worried she’s lost con-troll

DIANE Abbott MP is one of many who complain about online trolls, whether the attacks are racist, sexist, violently threatening or just plain disgusting. She now argues that such “personal destruction” could put women off politics. Politics? What makes that more important than any other public role from singing to business success, let alone the persecution of school children by class-mates.

This has nothing to do with politics. It’s all about social media, no matter who the victim is, and the nasty side of human nature. As the saying goes, if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

The social media genie is out of the bottle and with no “con-trolls” in place, trolling has become the norm. Everyone has to weigh up the benefits against the downsides, the handy form of communication v. the instrument of mental torture. Be part of it, or stop using it –whining doesn’t help.

So is the pen still mightier?

ANOTHER example of how modern technology has changed society. Went to sign a paper petition on Princes Street. The campaigners didn’t have a pen. And as two journalists, nor did we!