Look At It This Way - July 19, 2013

Accident and Emergency (A&E) at Blackpool Victoria Hospital
Accident and Emergency (A&E) at Blackpool Victoria Hospital
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Blackpool is so high in the social deprivation league it’s a wonder we don’t get nosebleeds looking at the statistics.

But if we eat too much, drink too much, smoke and don’t take regular exercise or change our diet or lifestyle is it any wonder medics fail to save us from ourselves? It’s an attitude problem but taking responsibility for self inflicted problems only goes so far in altering the altitude at which Blackpool operates in the social deprivation league.

It’s worth remembering that other trusts in other areas with far greater problems haven’t been named and shamed by Sir Bruce Keogh (below).

He has applied almost surgical precision to his keyhole appraisal of our hospitals.

And other trusts in areas with nowhere near the challenges we face locally are now having to enter “special measures” to help them improve. Outside troubleshooters sent in... as a matter of life or death.

So Blackpool is clearly doing something right. Just not all the time. And not always when it matters most.

And these are failings we cannot afford to bury beneath the blame culture seen in the Commons this week. It was an unedifying spectacle.

Most of us know that our NHS is ailing. It needs the oxygen of publicity to put it right – the more transparent the process the more proactive the health service becomes. Most of us know the cause. Lack of staff. It’s much the same in other public sector areas. But staff need to be in the right place at the right time with the right support. And in hospitals – which are supposed to make you better or at least feel better – they need to be on hand round the clock.

I see much to applaud personally and professionally at Blackpool Victoria Hospital. Medics have saved my mother’s life at least twice there.

My own care at the cardiac centre has been exemplary. But I’m astonished that it’s going to be well over three months before I get to a clinic with regard to a diagnosis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, moderate, irreversible. I want to make informed choices. The delay worries me.

But I’m heartened too by an assurance the trust is looking to “supply extra capacity in order to accommodate the higher volume of referrals.”

It usually acts when it finds the system lacking.

There have been times when I’ve been left tending to a loved one’s most basic needs, or had to call upon increasingly senior medical staff to act before it’s too late – or picked up the pieces after what should have been a routine procedure went horribly wrong.

I’ve had at least one battle royal with a consultant who was keener to play golf than tell me why he had left my mother in high dependency with far more medical problems than she had when she arrived on the ward.

I’ve fed patients who couldn’t reach food – or staff to help.

I’ve gone in search of bed pans and wiped bottoms when no one else was to hand. I’m no nurse. I lack the vocation, care or compassion. I do it for my own. They do it for all.

And simply put hospitals need more nurses. Not more administrators. They need more doctors. Not spin doctors. They need more consultants. I don’t care what their bedside manner is like so long as they get the job right - most of the time.

The good news? Our trust has appointed 10 new consultants.

Just 25 more to go.