LETTER: NHS really standsd for National Do It Yourself Health Service

Share this article

Recent experiences have convinced me we should rename our health service, the National Do it Yourself Health Service.

I severely injured my foot recently. Doctors rarely make house calls these days so I hobbled to the surgery. Having removed my shoe and sock as soon as I entered the consulting room, the doctor had no choice but to examine me. I was told that without an X-ray it was not possible to tell if any bones were broken, but it would be pointless anyway because even if there were, the only treatment was to strap up the injured limb.

Naively, I sat there thinking the doctor, or at least a nurse, would do it. How wrong I was. I had to hobble home and do it myself! The other week I heard about another case of DIY medicine. A midwife phoned a new mum who was just two days out of hospital, and asked if she would give herself an injection. She was unable to visit, she said, as they were short staffed!

Still with DIY medicine, I know of a local practice where you are encouraged, or should that be expected, to take your own blood pressure before seeing the doctor!

In the “old” days when you went to the doctors, after listening to your symptoms, the doctor gave you a thorough examination which was followed by a course of treatment or referral, etc.

Today the trend seems to be that you tell the doctor what you think is wrong and he/she then asks you what you want him/her to do. Alternatively, you are given a course of medication and told to come back in X number of weeks.

Alas, when you try to make an appointment for X weeks ahead, the receptionist then tells you you will have to ring nearer the time, as appointments cannot be made more than one week ahead.

There are moves afoot to let people make appointments over the Internet. Fine if you have a computer, but what about those who haven’t?

You can only imagine the frustration of someone who finally having got through on the telephone, is told all the appointments for that week have already been booked, and to try again later.

Finally, on the subject of DIY medicine, there was case recently of a woman phoning NHS Direct as she had a severe pain in her leg. The operator ticked off questions on a checklist and prescribed painkillers. The woman died some hours later from a blood clot. The inquest revealed that had the woman said the pain was in her calf, rather than her leg, the operator would have referred to a different check sheet.

Looking ahead with all the earlier points in mind, I would not be at all surprised if everyone is given a copy of Grey’s Anatomy (Descriptive and Surgical) so we are fully conversant with medical terminology.