Saturday, October 03, 2009

Free at the point of use

I have this brown mark on my foot. It just kind of arrived a couple of years ago. My mother said I was getting old. I *am* getting old.

Over the summer, my friend N came to stay. A few years ago she went into hospital Up North (where she lives) to have a mole removed from one of her eyebrows. You can see the scar if you know where to look, but they did a lovely job. More importantly, while it turned out to be a Bad Mole, she has since been given the all clear.

She spotted the mark on my foot when we were both curled up on the sofa watching TV and said 'has anyone looked at that?'. No, I said. 'Go to see your GP', she said.

So I booked an appointment via the EMIS system. I've been going to the same GP practice for over 10 years, and I think it's great. I got to see the doctor I always try to see - one of the partners, who is also a trained homeopath and the closest thing to a British bluestocking I can imagine. She had a student in with her, and they both looked at my foot. 'Need to refer that, I'm afraid,' she said, and filled in a form. It was ticked 'urgent', which alarmed me slightly. I took it downstairs and gave it to the receptionists.

A couple of days later I got a phonecall at work from the Dermatology department at the Churchill, who'd called me at home and got the number from M. She offered me a 9.30 appointment the following Tuesday. I said I *could* make that, but I was supposed to be in an all day meeting that day, but I wasn't working on the Friday? She said I could come at 9am on Friday instead. I said thanks. She said she'd send me a letter to confim but it might not arrive on time, but there was a map on the website. I said thanks. I took advantage of this. 

[NB The letter did arrive on time, but I didn't open it, which I'm quite glad about, as it told me I had an appointment at a Tumour Clinic and I should try not to worry.]

I turned up at the appointed hour, and was directed to Waiting Area 2, where five minutes later a doctor called me in and asked me some questions. Do you want to see my foot? I said. I want to see all your skin, she said. We went into an examining room, I went down to my bra and pants and she looked at all my various moles. Right, she said, we do need to get the consultant to look at that foot. There will be a short wait.

She handed me one of those hospital gowns with no back, and went back into the outer office. I put it on, then lay down on the examining couch to read my book. After a couple of minutes, I put my socks back on, as it was a little chilly. Five minutes later, she came back in. Are you ok? she said. The consultant is coming soon.

Five minutes after that, he burst through the door with a student in tow and bearing a special mole magnifier. I took my socks off and he had a good look. Then he talked about the ABCD of moles to the student and got her to have a look too. Colour was his main concern. Can I see? I said. It was a bit tricky because of the angle, but I could see that it might look basically brown, but is actually very splotchy.

How did you get here? he said. I got dropped off, I said. How are you getting home? he said. I'm going to walk, I said. Ah, he said. Not if we take this off now. Oh, I said.

Well, we don't have to do it today, he said. But I want that off in the next two weeks. Because of where it is, you won't be able to walk for a few days, and you'll have to take it very easy for a couple of weeks to make sure it heals properly.

Oh, I said. I'm supposed to be going to Brussels next week for work. Not if we take it off today, he said. Oh, I said. Is the week after next ok? I mean, is it dumb to wait?

It's fine, he said. Chances are it's not melanoma but not worth the risk of leaving it there. There's something not right about it.

OK, I said. Thanks.

So I got dressed, the first doctor took an MRSA swab from my nostril (I have no idea why), and gave me a green form and a white form, which I took back to reception.

The receptionist took the white one, and directed me down the hall to the surgery appointments office. The woman in there looked through her bookings. It looks full, she said, but I keep a few slots hidden for two-weekers like you. How about 1.30 on the 14th?

Great, I said. She gave me an appointment card and a leaflet about minor surgery, and I walked home via the public right of way across the golf course.

When I got home I opened the original letter they'd sent me, where it did say that they also treat private patients. One wonders what extra you'd get for the money.

And while the ultra-specialist part of my care so far has been delivered via a male consultant, who was brusque but not bossy, every other contact I've had has been with a woman. And they've all thought about how I might be feeling and what else might be going on in my life. 

So I have to say to Ms Death Panel Palin and her freakish ilk: if this is socialised medicine, you guys should Bring It On. 


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Anonymous Peter said...

Impressive indeed. Jane's GP is likewise a bluestocking. She's called Celia and ticks all the same boxes, but is of course near retirement. Impossible to put a price on being taken seriously in the first place, but (ideology permitting which it probably doesn't) the aspect of medicine most worth paying for would IMO be the GP in the event that you didn't have paragons like those.

12:56 pm  
Blogger Andy said...

Great story, Jo. I am sure things will turn out fine.

The experiences I have had with the NHS have all been fantastic. At times a little brusque, as you've experienced, but always efficient.

The media message and my personal experience are two completely different things, and it angers me no end! I loved the US NSH bashing this year, as it seemed to make most whingers realise that, imperfect as it is, the NHS really is pretty bloody ace.

7:55 pm  
Blogger Andy said...

PS - by "Great Story" I didn't mean to sound flippant about a potentially dodgy mole. I meant it was a great blog post that was well written and interesting to read!

7:59 pm  
Blogger Ben said...

My favourite Palinista excess is the claim that Stephen Hawking would be dead if he lived in the UK and was reliant on the NHS. Which he does and he is.

On an utterly different topic, in your excitement you probably forgot to read the Daily Mail on 1 October and I thought the hockey moms of the world could draw strength this headline.

1:51 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, Jo, what very male comments so far, if they will forgive me for saying so. I am so sure you will find the mole is not a Bad Mole but I hope the fear is small until then.

But, I agree, too, that the NHS is fantastic. I didn't realise how fantastic until I had children.

10:36 pm  
Blogger Jo said...

One of the most interesting things about joella is that even though she is often all about gender stuff, most of her comments are from men. I like that a lot. So... don't be thinking male thoughts aren't welcome.

But having said that, Anon, I think there is much more room for women to champion the NHS. I don't have children, but I was once a child. My original post was along the Monty Python 'what has the NHS ever done for me' lines, and I realised it was too long a story for a blog post. Maybe we should start an NHS wiki? Is Stephen Hawkins our living wiki?

9:15 pm  
Blogger Jo said...

Hawking. Sorry. I knew that.

9:18 pm  
Blogger Ben said...

I like the idea that anyone can update him.

9:11 am  
Blogger Spine said...

Last week I made him say that Sting had died in a cocaine-fuelled brawl in the Cotswolds.

(male, much?)

6:26 am  

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