I look at the horror stories in the press about the NHS, and then I compare them to my own experience within the service. The two do not mesh.
I have a chronic immune-system disorder known as psoriasis. For many years, it was considered to be a skin disease, as the main symptom presents as large, unsightly “plaques” of rough, angry-looking scales on the trunk, arms and legs. Research over the last ten years has given us a much greater understanding of psoriasis, and how to control, if not cure it.
I’ve been attending Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Hospital, home to one of the best dermatology departments in the country, for management of my psoriasis. I was referred, free of charge and without fuss, by my GP. They’ve been brilliant, guiding me through different types of therapy and treatment.
Recently, I realised that my current course of medication wasn’t controlling the plaques as well as I liked. I elected to up my game and try a systemic treatment – basically, popping a pill.
Systemic treatments work for psoriasis by slowing down the immune system. I know, this sounds like a terrible idea. But bear in mind that the disease is effectively caused by my immune system revving out of control. Calming things down on the inside makes for a much less angry result on the outside.
However, it’s a delicate balancing act. In order to get the go-ahead, I needed to get green lights on liver function and cholesterol – both of which are affected by psoriasis and the systemic treatment for it. My results came back and sadly, they weren’t perfect.
So, for the last three months, I’ve been undergoing a fairly intensive round of investigation. I’ve been through consultations with leading lipid and liver specialists, undergone ultrasound and fibroscans, and lost very nearly an armful of blood to tests. I was called into my GP to go over the results as they were coming in, giving me perspective and more importantly, easing my worries at some of the scarier numbers. The whole process
has been carried out with professionalism, good humour, patience and empathy by everyone I’ve met, from receptionists to nurses to the highest consultants, even when it was clear that they were overworked and understaffed.
The end result: I’m pleased to say that I’m now on a systemic treatment called acetretin, which should start to clam things down in a few weeks. The end cost to me as a user has been the meds. £7.85 for a four month supply of acetretin, and the same for a two-month supply of a statin to work on my cholesterol. Grand total: £15.70.* Try and get that in the US-based model that the Tories are trying to impose.
To conclude, when I watch Jeremy Hunt on Newsnight claim that the NHS is an archaic, broken system, I look at the evidence I have at hand and can only conclude that the man is ill-informed, an idiot or has another agenda. For me, the NHS has always delivered on time and on budget. It’s never let me down. This is more than I can say for Hunt and his cronies. If they’re after an outdated, unaccountable structure to blame for slipping standards, perhaps they should be looking a little closer to home.
*yes, I’m aware that’s not a one-time cost.