So I’ve not been posting for a while. I always admit that this thing comes and goes like our bloody weather. But I’ve had an excuse as I’ve been under the weather a tad. I posted a few weeks ago about a painful back/chest condition which necessitated a visit to my local A&E where I was diagnosed with something called costochondritis – an inflammation of the breastbone area. It was nothing too serious and I was prescribed with painkillers and ibuprofen. But after 3 weeks I felt no better, in fact the pain was worse. In the meantime I received a letter from Chelsea And Westminster Hospital Trust, who handled all my cancer surgery and chemo treatment and follow up, that due to a change in Trust guidelines, my colonoscopy procedure scheduled for 20121 had been cancelled. Nothing more than that other than if I had issues I should take it up with my GP. Oh, thank you and good night.
What? Now I’m not a huge fan of the procedure heaven knows but I’ve had this kind of understanding and deal with my surgeon and oncologist that having the procedure on a bi-annual basis is a sensible way to monitor the condition of my inner canal area to try and keep an eye on things and deal with any issues that might arise at the earliest opportunity ie proactive care. I’m very mindful of my lovely younger brother who left things unexamined and too late, ending up with untreatable cancer, dying within weeks. So what’s changed at the hospital? I’m out of area now but all my consultants etc are happy to continue to see me. What was the problem? I just wanted to understand why the change in approach. I managed to reach a consultant at the Endoscopy Unit who simply advised that the guidelines had become more challenging and that I should speak to my GP. I did just that and got a really fobbed off answer that as I was 6 years clear of cancer I was no longer a priority. I get that but what about preventive cancer activity? It seems, she said, that this Government’s advice is now curative rather than preventative. In other words show evidence that you have serious cancer symptoms and you can have your colonoscopy. Oh great. But testing checks are deemed expensive and unnecessary.
So this is the brave new world of the NHS under Matt Hancock. Get seriously ill and we’ll have a poke at saving you; otherwise no costly treatment. I had a rant at her and she just said don’t ask me to make a political judgement. OK fair enough but what about preventative action – how does that stand as an NHS priority these days? Clearly not v high she declaimed. Wow. Inside 6 years things have changed dramatically. And to add a final bit of hurt she simply said look if you really need reassurance you can always get the procedure done privately and I’ll happily recommend a colleague who’ll do it for you. Should I get you a price? Er no thanks. I was kind of promised the procedure every two years and feel let down.
Turning to another point, I said the pain in my back/chest hadn’t dissipated. In fact it was probably worse despite two weeks of paracetamol and ibuprofen. Her advice was basically man up! So forgive me if I wan’t feeling too much love for my doc (who I’d never seen before) nor the NHS at this point. A week later and the pain was increasing so I took myself off to the A&E again where I had temperature, blood and BP tests, an x-ray, ECG and few other things. And after an hour or so the doc came out and said it’s still probably skeletal. Even though I couldn’t point to a spot where it was a definitive pain on my ribs/muscle structure. To me it felt like a pain on the inside rather than on my outer skeleton. Anyway he advised a crash course of codeine pain killers to ‘kill or cure’. Let’s hope the latter works.
A week later the codeine had run out and the pain was still increasing. Now I don’t want to sound like a ninny or a total hypochondriac but I know when something’s not quite right. So I called my GP surgery again, got a different doctor (who I really liked) who asked to see me for an exam. After a long chat and more tests she agreed that it was probably skeletal but that a CT scan might be the way forward to find out if anything more serious than a bit of muscle inflammation was the problem. Excellent – somebody who’s actually listening to me. She said it might take a couple of weeks to get an appointment. Fair enough. Now I’m not trying to attack the NHS which I love with all my soul. But it can be a fickle friend at times who can be infuriatingly frustrating And to prove it yesterday dawned…
Now all that I’m going to tell you is the truth. If you don’t believe me I don’t care. We had breakfast and I checked out my emails. I had an e-mail from the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital Trust, unusually as I normally receive all communications via letter form. It was signed off by the Endoscopy Services Unit who were advising me that I was due for an inpatient/ day case procedure but my name had been taken off the Gastroenterology waiting list. Any queries please contact the ESU at the number above which looked like this….
Blimey was this a confirmation of last weeks’ message or something new? And equally disappointing? Obviously I thought I should give them a call to check it out but over the course of the next 45 minutes I received 6 or 7 copies of the same e-mail…
So I called the ESU on the number given. A very nice lady answered who told me that the number quoted was incorrect – she’d had to deal with hundreds of wrong calls. Oh lord. I apologised and she gave me the hospital switchboard number which was answered pretty quickly. Can you believe that (the incorrect number I mean)? The operator put me through to the Endoscopy Services Unit to whom I explained about the e-mail letter I’d received and the lady on the other end said, Oh you need to speak to the Gastroenterology clinic and transferred me immediately to another lady. I re-explained the situation again and she rather indignantly said this is clearly a matter for Oncology to deal with and I was transferred instantly to my lovely oncologist’s PA who was at first at little annoyed with me for bothering her with a clearly Endoscopy issue. Sigh. But after explaining how I’d been bounced around every secretary in west London she said she’d call me back.
She duly did 10 minutes later and said I should speak to Anneka again in Endoscopy who was now fully aware of my situation. She obviously misunderstood my problem. Ah ok. I thanked her and called Anneka. Initially she had no knowledge of me or my situation. Sigh. Eventually she got who I was and told me that these emails were being sent out by doctors or the system outside of the Endoscopy Unit and they had no control over them. Eh? I mentioned the incorrect phone number and she said the hospital had been getting many complaints over that!! No shit Sherlock. Unbelievable. And the multiple copies? No idea. Anyway I asked what it all meant for me and she said that I would be getting a letter explaining that my scheduled colonoscopy in 2021 wouldn’t be going ahead. I said I’d already received that letter to be honest but did she know why because I hadn’t received any reasonable explanation. Well, she said it was down to covid-19 which had resulted in many cancer cases being delayed. So there was a backlog in procedures where the priority was being given to essential cases throughout 2021 rather than exploratory cases. At last a reasonable explanation which is perfectly understandable and acceptable of course. All that procedural guff over changes to guidelines. Political bollocks. At long last I’d found a spokeswoman who explained things simply and made clear the reasons why I was being withdrawn for the 2021 list but that I was still in line for a colonoscopy procedure in 2023 instead. Hats in the air!!
So there you go. Excellent. Except… that I then received 8 messages via text telling me exactly the same message as on the email. I had to text STOP to halt the texts only to receive a message saying we are really sorry you are leaving the contact process, which is there to give you better access to healthcare services. Oh really? Leave me the fuck alone Hancock.
Feeling like the NHS had lost all sense of communication control I then got a call late yesterday afternoon offering me a cancelled appointment for the CT scan at my local hospital at 7.20 this morning, which I took of course. Amazing. Virtually instantaneous. It was a bit of a troublesome procedure but at least I’ll find out for sure what this pain is. If it’s just muscular/skeletal I’ll just have to accept painkillers for the next 5 months. Hopefully that’s all the problem is as 3 doctors have already advised of course. But let’s see.
Oh by the way, this morning I received a letter actually through the post from the ESU giving me exactly the same message as in the emails and texts. Sigh….
I’m looking forward to receiving another 7 tomorrow. And then I should get a few telegrams and pigeon post deliveries. Is there anybody worrying about the systems back up at the NHS in the new Hancock regime? Because it patently isn’t working. Let’s just add it to the list of fuck-ups alongside PPE supplies, care homes, testing results, track and trace procedures, and our brilliant world-leading non-functioning apps.
exasperated and slightly poorly paulie