My time wasted by NHS Direct
Our story starts about ten days when I noticed a lump on my face, itchy like an insect bite. Not that uncommon in Summer (yes, damp English people, it is Summer) and I had spent a fair amount of time wading around the undergrowth beyond our drive clearing nettles and assorted other undesirable vegetation.
Within four days it was much larger and quite swollen. Just as it reached the point I was getting concerned it started to subside. But then a few days later it was back with a vengeance and by Saturday I had an open sore patch on my lower left cheek, nearly two inches wide, and very swollen. Sorry to give you the explicit details but I don’t think you come to this web site to have fun… that’s what YouTube is for. This festering wound wasn’t what you’d describe as “weeping”… “dripping” would be more like it.
Looking at it still swollen, quite disgusting and obviously infected on Sunday morning I thought I’d better do something about it. I called NHS Direct knowing that I could go and see a doctor somewhere in Surrey at some point that day. I called, waited, and was cut off. I called again and after a couple of minutes on hold my call was answered. Details were taken (name, date of birth, ethnic origin, favourite pizza topping) and then I was asked a series of questions about my health and of course about Aqua Vape… all of which could have been summarised under the general heading of “do you have meningitis?”. Confident that I wasn’t in any immediate peril, the call taker said that a nurse would call within four hours, but probably nearer to one hour.
About an hour later, as promised, a nurse called. I described the symptoms and she said it would be best for me to get some further treatment (genius). I was given two options – the first was a rather vague-sounding possibility that I could drive somewhere that was open for patients some time during the day. The other was driving to a specific location (Ascot’s Heatherwood Hospital) where they had a minor injuries department open from 08:00 to 22:00. Heatherwood Hospital is about fifteen minutes drive from Adams Towers, so this sounded just the job.
On reaching the minor injuries department I was given a card with a number (3). This it turned out was not my ticket to see the nurse, it was to get an appointment with the receptionist. Yes, I was being held in a queue for a meeting with the receptionist. After quarter of an hour I was granted an audience with the receptionist who took some details (name, date of birth, ethnic origin, did I prefer smooth or crunchy peanut butter)… and then she asked me what the problem was. Wasn’t it obvious? I’d sprained my effin’ ankle. Or perhaps it was this unsightly blemish covering a quarter of my face? Okay perhaps a fifth.
Luckily I had the presence of mind to anticipate a wait. I have experienced a long wait before during the gall bladder saga. After five hours of laying on a trolley I saw a doctor who asked me where the pain was. “Nowhere now doc, it subsided two hours ago”. “Well” he said, “you seem a little dehydrated”. “Yes, I’ve been laying on this trolley for five hours”. Anyway, back to the present – I took along the soon-to-be-superceded (grrrr) Archos 605 and started watching “Knocked Up” (I do like Seth Rogen). So I know that it was one hour nine minutes before my name was called.
To cut a long story short that one hour nine minutes had been a waste of time (apart from watcing one half of a good movie) – this was the ‘minor injuries department’ and what I had was an “ailment” not an injury. I needed to see a doctor. This was an amazing revelation… a doctor, fancy that. But hang on… I’m in a hospital. But no, foiled again. “Mr Adams, you live in Surrey, and this hospital is in Berkshire”. Had I walked onto the set of ‘The League of Gentlemen’? Was this a local hospital for local people? Despite the fact that a doctor was sitting in the next room, I couldn’t see him. I had to see my own GP, or a doctor who could treat Surrey-based afflictions.
So, another night with a large dressing on my face, and I’m contemplating when I’ll be able to shave next (I’ve never been a big fan of shaving, but sometimes it’s necessary). If I have a meeting with you during the coming week, and I apologise for my tramp-like appearance, you’ll know why. A photo of the facial deformity is available on request, but I’ve decided not to post one here (in case you’ve just eaten).