We need to talk about the NHS

Martin Stewart

October 18, 2019

Martin Stewart (pictured) is director at The Money Group

In many respects I have, from a health point of view, been tremendously lucky.

My dealings with the NHS are book ended between an appendectomy at aged 10 and an emergency caesarean at aged 40 although at the latter I was a mere, casual observer. In between, there has been virtually nothing.

That was fine by me, no-one wants to be that burden on an already over-stretched public service amenity. Except, this past month, that is exactly what I became.

It started a few weeks ago with some painful ankles which soon became bloated cankles.

I spent so much time with legs raised high in the air I thought I’d joined the circus. But it got to the point where I could hardly walk and so I swallowed the male pride and went to A&E.

So began a week of daily visits for an IV drug line. It was “very unusual to get a bi-lateral infection in both feet at the same time” was probably the most common phrase I heard that week.

“I like to keep you on my toes,” I replied to absolutely no laughter whatsoever.

But here is the first and most obvious observation. The NHS is a conveyer belt of compassionate, caring, calm professionals.

In that first week I met a consultant surgeon who wafted in on a breeze of charisma that was so strong that had he asked to marry me I would have said yes.

That same week I saw two consultants, a myriad of doctors, a veritable host of nurses and an army of smiling and hard working support staff. Each and everyone of them were sincere and dedicated to whatever job was at hand.

So far, so painful. But after a week, the issue dissipated and I was discharged from their care.

And then it got worse.

I could hardly move. I would sleep for ten hours, wake up, collapse on the sofa and then sleep for another five hours.

I wasn’t eating. I tried to iron a shirt but couldn’t lift up the iron. I made an emergency GP appointment and 5 mins after arriving I was on my way to A&E. Within 30 minutes of being seen I was in resuscitation, stripped down and showing off the family heirlooms to all and sundry ( I’d put the gown on the wrong way round ).

But when you are hooked up to an ECG and a saline drip, it’s funny how quickly you can let your ego drop. I briefly heard the word sepsis as I fell asleep.

There I remained for the next six days which gave me another observation. The NHS is a machine, not perfect by any stretch of the imagination but one that has over the years cared for tens of millions of people, saved millions of lives along the way and delivered millions new lives in the process to replace those that we have lost.

It truly is a phenomenon. And in my drug-induced delirious state all I could think of was “how much is this all costing?”

I saw heart specialists, chest specialists, had CT scans, echo scans, ultrasound scans and X-rays galore.

Three days in and I was beginning to know how it feels to be Daniel Sturridge.

I would be surprised if my bill was much less than £20k. When I did walk out of there I received no nasty looking invoice. Nothing other than a smiling goodbye.

There you have it – the simplistic currency of the NHS are mere salutations. In fact, I’ve already been forgotten.

So after a week I have been discharged. A mysterious but well hidden infection seems the most likely cause. I

feel as well today as at any point in the past month but in adversity we must all learn lessons so that we can lose the battle but win the war. Here are my three:

  • Teamwork – it works. I was too weak to pull my share of the rope but I am lucky to have great people around me at LM & TMG who stooped to pick it up for me without question. For that I am grateful.
  • Stop winging it – life comes at you fast. We had no clear succession or continuity plan within the group which left me doing payroll from a hospital bed. We are now putting robust processes in place to ensure we all collectively become the least important person in the business. We will be reviewing our Key Man Insurance and personal insurances as well.
  • Wake up – this meaty carcass that houses our soul has a shelf life. We don’t want to admit mortality so we assume bad things will happen to others. That isn’t always going to be the case. One day, it will be you.

Finally, to the NHS. I cant really find the words right now for all the help you gave me.

Your architect did once say “the NHS will last as long as there are folk left with faith to fight for it,” so perhaps as we approach a critical time in our nations history we should find some common ground again, something that we can all focus upon that unites us as opposed to that which divides us?

Could that common ground be the NHS? We can never let the it fail I know that much, nor fall in to the hands of capitalists.

It is too important to too many to lose sight of what it was intended to be – a safety net for those who need it most.

We must never politicise the NHS – it belongs to the people, not to politicians.

We must continue to support those who dedicate themselves selflessly every day to those who cannot care for themselves.

Anyway, I’m off to update my Will.

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