Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Friday 9 October 2020

The National Heartless Service

As regular readers may recall, the Tavern inmates have more than a few reservations about the NHS (see the 2009 post ‘10 ways the NHS is killing people’), so I suppose we should not have been surprised at what happened this week to an 80-year-old relative.

While out walking a couple of days ago, she fell and badly twisted her ankle. It swelled up immediately and was too painful to bear any weight, so she called a taxi to take her directly to the nearest injury clinic.

On arrival, in considerable pain and still wearing her coat, she had her temperature taken with a forehead scanner. It was - unsurprisingly - ‘slightly above normal’; based on this single reading, she was immediately told that she was a Covid-19 risk and shunted into an ‘isolation room’, where she was left alone for twenty minutes without any medication or ice to relieve the pain - this despite the fact that even government sources admit that temperature testing is unreliable as a method of identifying the disease.

Finally a nurse appeared and, rather than taking a second temperature reading, gave the ankle a cursory look and announced that, because of the Covid risk, it could not be fully examined or treated. The patient should ‘go home immediately, self isolate and order a test online’. The hospital would check to make sure she had done the test; as long as the result was negative, she could return for an x-ray in a week’s time if the swelling had not gone down.

The word she used on the phone to describe the clinic staff was ‘heartless’, without the slightest warmth or compassion; how else could you describe refusing treatment to a woman of 80, in severe pain and unable to walk unaided, and sending her back to an empty house to embark on the complicated process of ordering a Covid test online? To add to the frustration, she took her own temperature after arriving home and found it was quite normal - as a second reading in the clinic would doubtless have shown.

Fortunately she has back-up - not that the nurses bothered to find out; a friend was able to lend her crutches (since the clinic would not) and the Spouse, having ordered the test on her behalf, drove 150 miles to help out and join her in isolation as long as necessary. Now we just have to hope that her ankle is not broken and that it will heal without complications.

And if, in the future, anyone asks this well-mannered and respectable lady whether she will join in applauding our wonderful NHS, I suspect the answer will be unrepeatable.