I spent today at our local hospital with my daughter. The admissions team had mucked up her appointment a couple of times, but today was the day for her minor surgery. We were just down the hall from the grubby bathroom and unhelpful aides who featured heavily when I spent a few days in with her then three-week-old brother in 2010. A couple of floors down from the memories of the difficult birth and immediate postnatal days of her big brother five years earlier still, when we both struggled physically and otherwise in a busy, stressed environment with little time for bedside manners.
I didn’t get a cup of tea, and the walls were scuffed. The toys were past their best and the curtains were faded. A nurse was brusque on the way to the lift. The mum of the child in the bed opposite was cross that they had to wait so long, and the next child along had been sent from GP to Walk in Centre to, finally, admission onto the children’s ward via A&E over the last few days, trying to get to the bottom of her daughter’s health problems.
I spent today at our local hospital, and I came home with a little girl who can now hear clearly, and who harbours an adoration for the nurses and doctors who made her feel like a princess and put teddy bear stickers on her hands. The admissions team had bent over backwards to find her an early date for her operation when the computerised system had simultaneously double booked and discharged her in error. We were just down the hall from the room where her then three-week-old brother spent several nights on oxygen, fed milk through his nose, while his tiny newborn lungs and heart were helped to cope with an infection that can kill. A couple of floors down from the theatre where her big brother was brought into the world via a surgeon’s knife, after an implausible choice of birth presentation which in other circumstances could have spelled tragedy for both of us.
My daughter had endless cups of juice, and toast on a fairy plate. She loved the detail of the paintings on the walls, the pictures on the curtains and the liberty to play rather than being hushed in bed. “Her” nurse didn’t stop running from our 10am arrival till we left at 5, still 3 hours away from her own home time. The lady over the way left with a child whose problem was visibly improved after surgery, her neighbour was spending the night on the ward with her daughter ahead of an appointment tomorrow with a high level specialist at another, bigger, hospital.
I spent today at our local hospital, and, as always, the only money that changed hands was in the cafe.
For all its imperfections, some genuinely serious and in need of addressing, I wonder what a day in an NHS hospital will look like in ten years time. I wonder who will be there, and how much it will cost them. I wonder what will happen to those who can’t afford it. I wonder who’ll do better out of the changes. I doubt it would be any of us there today.