Friday, April 22, 2016

Dear Jeremy Hunt - The Difference a Week Makes

I'm sorry I haven't posted here regularly Jeremy, I'm sure you've been wondering where I got to. Last week, for the first time since December, Dave and I had some good news. Last Friday, we went to see Dave's Impossibly Elegant Oncologist. 

Have I told you about Dave's oncologist? He was the first one to give it to us straight. No hedging, no soft words. Bad news, delivered gently. You have no idea how much I adore this man. He is gentle, straightforward and has a very cheeky sense of humour. We trust him. He is also the first consultant I have ever seen borrow a pen from a nurse and go out of his way to return it! Jeremy, would you ever return an underling's pen? Their normal, note-taking biro? I've had to rifle through my manager's desk many-a-time to retrieve my pens that they'd absent-mindedly picked up when hovering over me and walked off with. You have no idea how much that used to piss me off. 

Anyway, Dave's Impossibly Elegant Oncologist asked how he was coping with the treatments and then gave us the results of the CT scan. The primary tumour has shrunk from 20mm to 5mm, the secondary tumours on the lymph nodes can't be seen! 

This Jeremy means that the treatment is working. As Dave goes through Cycle 3 and the cumulative effects start to grip, this news makes it all worthwhile. 

This means that perhaps we can have Christmas dinner this year without fear.

It may mean a few more birthdays to celebrate.

This is the gift of time. 

We don't know how long and I can't think of that yet, but it means Dave will be cooking a turkey dinner for us and I will eat every morsel with gratitude. 

Jeremy you seem to have painted yourself into a bit of a corner. It seems you have no right to impose such an unfair, unethical and unsafe contract on the Junior Doctors. You my man, are on very shaky political ground. The legal challenge to this contract is going ahead and has a huge amount of support from the BMA and the public. I think it's beginning to dawn on you that you've been a complete and utter cockwomble (damn, I love that) and because of your antagonist rhetoric, you haven't left yourself a way out of this mess. You are going to have to accept you won't save face and it's your own doing. I am going to try hard to feel sympathy for you, but I think I'm not that good a person. 

You have ground down good people for your own political means. Good people whose daily working lives provide enough of a grind.

Dave's treatment had to be postponed. We got to the ward on time. Dave had his kidney function test, but the oncologist and the nursing staff had to deal with a difficult patient who was kicking off and was kicking off in such a spectacular fashion and created so much drama, that the test results and treatment could not be reviewed before the end of shift. 

The oncology ward is staffed by specialist doctors and they work twelve hour shifts. The night shift has specialist nurses on hand to administer the chemotherapy over night, but given Dave's reaction to the first regime, they wanted a doctor on hand, in case anything untoward happened. This meant Dave was there for 72 hours, rather than 24. 

Have you ever been bullied? The behaviour of the patient, kicking off was truly appalling. He was a man who was accustomed to having his own way. Life it seemed, revolved around him and he wasn't going to have some youngster tell him otherwise. The doctor who dealt with the patient, was polite and firm. At no point did he rise to the veiled insults and threats. He remained calm and professional throughout. And this wasn't just a one-off, five minute confrontation. This drama played out over the afternoon and early evening. I wanted to hug that doctor, I really did. His concern throughout, no matter what that awful man said, remained with the patient's best interests. The nursing staff did what they could to de-escalate the situation, but he was having none of it. Eventually, the situation was resolved, but time had disappeared, wasted on needless drama.

That's what this fight with the Junior Doctors has been Jeremy, needless drama. As a politician you've shown yourself to be incompetent. Smarter politicians would know you catch more bees with sugar, than with vinegar.. Instead of working with, you've worked against and history will forget you as just another rabble rouser who was faced down with professionalism that has the welfare of the NHS on their side. 

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Dear Jeremy Hunt - Service Users

Is that what we are these days? It seems we're no longer patients. Your language is all hip, management speak, about accessing a service that's designed for us users. Well, here's the thing, successful entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson (you might have heard about him), is credited with saying "look after your staff well and they in turn, look after your customers." 

These two NHS customers service users are currently a little bit knackered. Me, because 3 o'clock in the morning is prime worrying time, and Dave....well Dave because he's going through the new treatment regime and yes, it's as hard as he was warned. Scan tomorrow morning to see how everything is going and I think it's more important for our morale, than for the actual clinical information. We are living from treatment to treatment and trying to anticipate good and down periods where we can do stuff. Fun stuff. 

Spring has sprung and it's truly beautiful here. Living in this part of the world uplifts my spirits in ways you can't imagine. The chickens are a constant source of amusement and exasperation. Jenga, my rooster is doing his absolute best to add two of Z's flock to his own and they are desperate for this to be so. His problem is that the coop we've got is too small. I might be able to squeeze one extra in, but two is a step too far. I will have to disappoint them.

I'm still doing my best to keep a clean and tidy house. I had a bit of a lurgy issue that had me ringing my new GP for advice. Technically, Dave is the patient. I'm down on record as his carer, but that's because as his non-domiciled significant other, it gets a bit awkward as far as patient confidentiality and treatment is concerned. My surgery has bent their rules into a pretzel to enable both Dave and myself to have as much support as they are able to provide.

I knew towards the end of last week I was cooking a low-grade sinus infection. Normally, I'd just take to my couch with a massive mug of tea, knock back the over-the-counter drugs and wait until it buggers off. However, two things. One, as I'm looking after things, I can't be out of commission for the three weeks it normally takes my sinus infections to resolve or deteriorate and two, Dave's immune system is getting the shit kicked out of it. I was worried that he'd get this and it would strike him down in an Old Testament stylee.

Like all good and sensible people, I rang my GP. My new surgery is desperately short of GPs. They are now running a system whereby they triage calls and a GP or nurse will call you back with advice, or invite you in if necessary. Why are they short of GPs Jeremy? Well, they've had a doctor retire and a couple go on maternity leave and it seems locums are hard to come by. Why is that Jeremy? No really, why do you think that is? 

My new GP called me back within half an hour. I explained the situation to her and she issued me with a prescription for antibiotics in case I got worse. She trusted me to work with my body and my health. She also reassured that having this wouldn't put Dave at risk, just not to get too close and be sensible. She made it clear that I could call back if I had any worries at any time. Happily, my sinuses are playing nice and everything seems to be clearing up fairly rapidly. The ABs are here just in case. 

This brings me to the main point of my letter today. I'm not the one with cancer. I'm not the one going through chemotherapy. But every time I've gone in with Dave, I've been warmly greeted. My questions and concerns are considered and answered. I am looked after as well as Dave. I'm not the service user, not the customer. I'm treated like a person, whose wellbeing is taken into consideration. Not just the addition or carer of Dave.

I wish you could see the Oncology Unit in the way I do. The nurses greet their patients with warmth and smiles. Today, I saw some of them greet their long-term service users with hugs and genuine affection. Tea and biscuits are offered by volunteers before the serious business happens. Have you ever tried to get a cannula in? Not as much fun as you'd think. After awhile veins become scarred and it gets harder and more painful. Oh yes, the nurses can't ever go "that'll do" with chemotherapy drugs. Nasty things happen. You're the Minister for Health - look it up. 

Today, I amused the nurse while she tried to get the cannula in, by trying to pronounce the drug names, even after her patient schooling I still couldn't do it. My Caribbean heritage has me putting emphasises in the wrong syllables and it comes out horribly wrong. I don't think I have a career in the medical profession waiting for me because of it. 

But I think of those who are able to pronounce those disease names, the drugs needed to save the lives of the service users and are able to give a little of themselves to make the experience bearable. Jeremy, I implore you. 

I need these people. All of them. From the auxiliary to the staff nurse, from the heavily pregnant junior doctor and her ridiculously young colleagues all of whom look like they should be drinking Diamond White behind the Sixth Form College. I need the oncologist to be on best form, the GP to be able to hear me when I need reassurance. I need them, because I need Dave. I need him to be well. My happiness depends on this. I'm not ready to give Dave up to the cancer yet. It's the NHS that will do this for me as long as you leave it well enough alone and let the service providers to their jobs, their best and their most, for us service users.