Be A Patient Patient

(because a political post is always going to be written well when I write it with literally 40 minutes to go until midnight)

I’ll try to keep this short because this is evidenced entirely with personal experience, and contains absolutely no research into the subject matter to validate my opinions as anything more than a rambled monologue. I’ll probably write about this in more depth later, but for now I’d like to make a point, then bugger off to watch Superjeenius’ epic let’s play of Persona 4 Golden, if you don’t mind.

With the NHS being shredded from a humanitarian system of protecting the vulnerable members of our society into a political chess piece to be continually sacrificed so a rook can move up a few squares, there’s been a lot of debate about how to ‘fix’ the service. And while doctors’ working hours, the provision of services and contact with GPs are all complex problems that need to be discussed intelligently and sincerely, there’s another issue that I’ve not seen too much coverage of: the need for patients to stop being wankers.

I’ve seen you there, Entitled Patient, sitting in that NHS waiting room at seven on a Friday night, moaning loudly that there’s not a specialist in your tiny Welsh village of 56 people to treat your impressively obscure but ultimately harmless toenail problem that you could have treated at home by not being such a bitch. I see you too, Scaredy Patient, busting through GP doors to beg a receptionist for a cure for your malady as if they were  Jesus himself, and you were asking to be cured of leprosy, whereas in reality you just want to buy a bandage for a paper cut on your index knuckle. You’re there too, Loudmouthed Patient, somehow managing to blame Jeremy Corbyn, immigrants and the gays for the fact that you can’t get an aspirin as quickly as you could last week when there were obvously millions fewer foreign socialist sodomites spreading AIDS around your local hospital.

My point is that the NHS works two ways; if we, as patients, want a better service from doctors, nurses and carers, we need to enable them to provide that service. We need to listen to their instructions and follow them, instead of coming back a week later to be told the same thing again after you didn’t do it the first time; we need to accept the practical difficulties of providing a free-on-demand health service to over fifty million people when the only things holding that service together are slashed budgets, strained professionals (who had to study for at least six years to get here in the first bloody place), and a massive array of laminated health and safety cards.

If you like, we have to provide a service ourselves, a National Patient Service. The key part of this service is that implementing it won’t require political manoeuvring, or budget cuts, or increased taxes, but slightly more patience, respect and humanity from all of us. We’re not being treated by machines, remember, but people, who can get tired, and stressed and confused, or can be knowledgable, kind and dependable in equal measure. The NHS isn’t a personal system, where each of us can demand flawless, round-the-clock healthcare, but a system fundamentally designed to help those who need help.

It comes back to one of the golden rules of life: if you stop being a prick, everything gets better.

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6 thoughts on “Be A Patient Patient

  1. You raise an interesting point. When you do your research consider looking into the role education plays in health care behaviors and the the way that the medical profession (whether intentional or not) tends to use jargon and be condescending to patients. The more we are taught to view medical professionals as holding all health information the less confidence we have in ourselves to make decisions independently.

    1. True – we have an idealised image of healthcare professionals as the ultimate and only answer to our medical problems, and the economic and practical reality that such a system can’t exist as a tax-funded system. We need to both trust doctors completely, but be largely independent at the same time, which is a fabulously consistent conclusion.

      And I don’t blame healthcare professionals for being condescending because they know their stuff and I don’t, but I can see why it’d annoy a lot of people – is that just a necessary product of a system with a small informed population and a large uninformed population?

      1. You can know your stuff and not be condescending! I know what you mean though and obviously there are a lot of doctors that manage to handle their position with consideration and tact. In my experience as a paramedic I found that because people are led to believe that they aren’t experts on their own health they also don’t feel responsible for their own health. Doctors are overworked and overwhelmed at almost every turn so taking the time to have discussions with patients and gain their trust and understand their motivations is just not possible. This means that you get a lot of people on medications and not knowing why or what they do. You also get people on medications when a lifestyle adjustment would probably have just as much impact, if not more. Lifestyle changes are hard though, and take more organisation to follow up and motivation on the part of the patient – it seems like often it is just easier to prescribe something and be done with it. I’ve gone on a bit of a tangent but I think it all relates.
        It’s hard to think of these things when you are sitting in a busy waiting room though, or when you have been woken up at 5 in the morning because a 22 year old had too much to drink and feels sick! haha

        1. No you’re totally right re. the lifestyle changes and responsibility ideas – it’s much harder to force people to exercise regularly than it is to give them a drug, and the more people resist treatments the harder doctors have to push, until the patient feels totally separated from their own healthcare. People want to be both reliant on doctors and independent, which can be difficult.

          People trying to be perfect rarely works, sadly.

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