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… 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 watching 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).


  1. Your showing remarkable patience and fortitude.

    Just go to A+E. And explain that you did all the nice queueing earlier, but now its infected, your feeling dizzy, etc.

    —* Bill

  2. If it makes you feel better, the same shit happens over here with private health care. I have had to wait hours here also, been given false information, incorrect charges etc.

  3. Darren, have you tried the online NHS direct Self-Help Guide? I wasn’t feeling too well a couple of weeks back, so went online and completed all the questions, and put down all my symptoms … it came back with just one possible result for my illness…


    I mean, I’m fat, yes.. but pregnant? surely not?!

    Gotta’ love the good old NHS. Humm…

  4. Update – I have impetigo, as confirmed by the doctor this morning, and receiving treatment in the nick of time as it shows signs of spreading. He prescribed antibiotics and laying off shaving for at least a week.

  5. Hi Mate,

    Sorry to hear that you’re suffering, however, I wonder of you could do me a favour?

    Maybe Wednesday or Thursday when you infection is looking particularly angry and a few days stubble has grown in, could you take a close up picture of yourself and send it to me.

    The kids are doing a project about the homeless and they need a cover picture… 🙂

    Sorry, couldn’t resist.

    Hope the antibiotics kick in quick.

  6. Of course Steve, and I’ll swig a bottle of Windowlene to make it look realistic. Actually, that’s Wild Bill’s favourite tipple, he starts on it even before the lager has run out.

    Amy Winehouse and Pete Docherty both had impetigo recently, so that’s the last time I go boozing with them.

  7. That’d odd, you’re the 3rd person I’ve met recently (incl myself!) who’s had impetigo recently. I (foolishly, should have stayed at home with a bag over my head) was wondering around Southbank suffering “helpful” & “supportive” comments from my esteemeed colleagues.

    I ended up going to an NHS drop-in centre when I got home. Couldn’t have had a more dramatically different experience from you! Walked in, filled in a form (HAVE to be forms…), saw a doctor 10 mins later, pills from a chemist round the corner.

    Simple. Luckily mine cleared up a few days later as was going to my best friend’s wedding in Gerards Cross and thought I’d had to have ‘profiled’ pictures (left was always my best side).

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