My Recent A+E Experience

On this occasion it was with my son. Who like many of us and tried his best to stay away from our GP. He had a bloodshot eye, which was getting worse. Of course it got so bad that he couldn’t see out of it! That’s when we needed to test the system recently, on Friday 15th . Yes we all know he should have gone earlier, but he is a typical man. Also very anxious after hearing all the reports about our current healthcare situation. So he rung the GP, who of course couldn’t see him. But advised him to ring 111. After a few conversations they told him to go to our local hospital, Croydon University. Where he would be seen at 11.15am. That’s precise we thought!

A very busy A+E dept

When he arrived it was explained that he must join the queue, as they don’t do appointments, even for eyes! The positive was that the hospital has a specialist Moorfields eye unit, so we felt reassured. My son was treated by an incredibly empathetic registrar. He explained he would have to refer him upstairs as his eye needed specialist attention. What followed was a typical red tape laden few hours between departments. Email after email. Missing attachments and delays. Finally around 3pm the registrar was asked by the eye team if my son could come back on Monday, as they closed at 4PM and couldn’t see him. All staff in A+E were incredulous, and embarrassed by such an obstructive system.

By this time he really did require urgent help, and the only option was to go into London to attend Moorfields eye hospital as an A+E case. Which we could have done in the first place, if we had known! Finally we found the team we needed. After some painful injections in his eye, he was diagnosed and given 6 weeks medication. With a follow-up to check everything was progressing as it should. Incredible NHS staff at every step, as always. But dramatically hindered by the system. GP, 111, Croydon University, Moorfields Eye hospital.

We took advice from the system. But my instinct was to go straight to London. All those extra steps made it difficult to get the treatment he needed. But what capped it all really, was the specialist eye hospital in Croydon closing at 4PM on a Friday and not re-opening until Monday morning. Apparently this is the norm and nothing to do with staff shortages! Of course there are so many issues coming into play with our NHS. But in my opinion it just does not help itself. Antique systems not able to make the best of technological advancement being one. I cannot fix people, but I am an expert in systems and efficiency.

A picture with lots of small parts as an example of complexity.

The service really does not possess the dynamic leadership it deserves. Proper ‘people managers,’ who can organise and motivate. Not medical people promoted beyond their skill set, just because they have been there a long time. As always the problems come from the top. With constantly changing Ministers and many staff just hanging on for their pension. The entire thing is rotten from top to bottom!

Yes, we all owe our lives to it, and we have all received life-changing care when we needed. Incredible support during covid of course. But we ALL deserve better. The incredible staff deserve a better system that allows them to take proper breaks and time off. Without the constant daily pressure. Who would want to work in that environment? We need to be proud once again of our healthcare. At the moment it is extremely fragile and we as patients are very nervous of having to use it.

We certainly need new hospitals and infrastructure etc. But more importantly we need to be doing the basics right. Not 3 letters for the same appointment, and a constantly non answered phone when calling your hospital. Communication is still the most important thing in our lives and currently that is a basic we have not got right. It’s not about working hard but working smart. This recent example of mine is far from that.

I want to dedicate this post to all the incredible NHS staff working in dreadful conditions. Thank you for what you are doing. You are much appreciated and I will continue to fight for better conditions to help us all.

As always these are my personal opinions based on my own experiences. Please feel free to share your own below.

9 Comments

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  1. Chris, again you portray an urgent message to save our failing health system before collapse. Hope you son receives the treatment he requires – it is such a wake-up call for us all to take action.

    • Hi Dianne,
      Thank you so much on all counts. Yes my son did eventually get exactly what he needed. But my point was that there was a much quicker way of achieving that. Quite honestly shocked that the eye dept in a major hospital should close on a Friday at 4.00pm till Mon morning. Why weren’t we told earlier? I will now never go to our local hospital again by choice, but drive a few extra miles to one of the better functioning London hospitals.

      Still very shocked that most of the population seem ambivalent to what is going on, or not, within healthcare. This affects us all, our parents and children.

  2. A great example of what we all see on a daily basis as patients/relatives, and staff that work in it. The best people managers I have worked with come from a clinical background (granted a couple have been atrocious too..yes those promoted beyond their skill set)
    I have yet to come across a value added ‘People Team’ function and many ‘non clinical’ staff are promoted beyond their skill set to the most senior leadership roles..and who have not been around the longest

    • Hi Karen, thanks so much for sharing your own experiences. It is hard not to generalise and I’m sure there are exceptions on both sides. We must find an answer to creating better use of resource in a system where staff will want to stay in the #NHS

  3. I’ve seen more of the opposite in the last 20 years(exception a central London hospital). Managers inexperienced in clinical matters, with little or no clinical knowledge grappling with understanding the clinical issues and realities of dealing with variable humans and not data

    • Thx for sharing your own experiences Darlaine. So valuable to have all sides of the coin. How did those managers get to that position?

      • I’m not sure, i suppose they just apply for the job as business manager. If they have experience somewhere in NHS maybe thats how. My experience has been they are sometimes not all familiar with the clinical area they might be working in.
        Just adding here, there is always a clinical manager thats clinical to advise upwards, but the upwards position havent always had experience if the area they are managing.

  4. There are good ,mediocre, & not so good hospital CEOs. Many have never been clinicians. Assumptions across the board are not good.
    The NHS has undergone many reorganisations. Rarely does it lead to improved services.

    • Hi Elisabeth. That situation is the same in any business too. Agree that change has rarely been successful in the past. But we now have a service on a knife edge daily, record waiting lists, and record numbers leaving. We must do something?