Happy New Year to one and all

Steve-Rowlands-2014_WEBAnd what an interesting one we have to look forward to; with a forthcoming election and the NHS already being used as a political football.

As we will all be aware, the NHS has seen unprecedented levels of activity with Accident and Emergency departments across the country working beyond their capacity, ambulance services stretched beyond belief and primary care creaking at the front door.

And why is this happening? Well…

Between Christmas and the New Year, I took the family to a local cinema and followed it up with a pizza. As I was getting stuck into my Firenzi, I was interrupted by the noise of a siren and blue flashing lights pulling up at the front door of the restaurant.

A paramedic jumped out the ambulance, rushed into the restaurant and was directed over to a lady sitting at a table behind us eating her meal and who seemed to be perfectly happy. She was escorted into the back of the ambulance and 30 minutes later came back in to finish off her meal eventually leaving the building laughing and joking with her partner.

I was astonished at this. Not only would this have incurred a cost of at least £276, it tied up two highly-skilled professionals for probably the best part of an hour, during one of the busiest times of the year.

My kids could not believe what they had just witnessed and were even more astounded when we got home that night and put the TV on to be greeted with a news report on how stretched the ambulance service in the South West is and how they were not managing to respond to urgent calls.

Was this event a symptom of why the whole system is in overload?

I suspect the answer is yes, but no, but…

On chatting to colleagues in our three District General Hospitals there have clearly been a lot of very sick elderly people seen and admitted over the last three weeks. However the A&E departments were also overloaded by people who could and should have been treated elsewhere.

If, as a nation, we want to maintain an NHS that is free at the point of delivery, we have to treat it with the respect that it deserves and not waste people’s valuable time and expertise.

I wonder if this particular lady would have been as eager to call for an ambulance if she subsequently received a bill for £276…