Friday, 25 October 2019

Hospital visits, then and now

A busy week keeping the Health Service employed with two visits.
The first to the respiratory laboratory to breathe hard into pipes and tubes, all recorded on modern screens with hidden computers calculating tidal volumes and expiratory rates. Nothing dramatises the huge change in modern medicine since I was a student, when we breathed into moving cylinders that recorded our breathing by scratching a line on a carbonised piece of paper, which we fixed by spraying with hair lacquor.
Second to a dermatology clinic, where I stripped to expose the extent of my dreadful rashes. They are now my greatest torment, keeping me awake at night, and even waking me with their terrible itching, so I wake scratching and bleeding in the bed. It is a monster that has taken over my body, demanding attention and grabbing me by the skin on any part it fancies, leaving wheals and sores. It is an embarrassment to myself and my family as I desperately battle against the temptation to poke and rub. In company, I end up sitting on my hands, or suruptitiously pinching myself hard to distract from the pain of the irritation.  The consultant was sympathetic fortunately, and has prescribed some stronger cream and an antihistamine to ease the irritation, plus an appointment to the allergy clinic in case there is anything obvious causing it within my environment.

St Thomas Hospital Nightingale Ward
Ann has found a series of old black and white documentaries from the film archives, and showed me one on the health service in 1958, 10 years after its foundation. It was fascinating to watch, but apart from the equipment, little seems to have changed. Then as now there was a strange rivalry between the GPs and the hospital consultants; a gaggle of trainee doctors followed on the ward rounds, with little hope of becoming consultants themselves;  and still there was bed blocking by the infirm elderly, and a desperate plea for more money and hospitals to cope with the backlog. People say it is the envy of the world, but in that case, why has no country in the world adopted it themselves? Perhaps they prefer to pay for private care, or go through the strictures of insurance claims. Or perhaps, like so many in the USA, they prefer to die untreated, rather than suffer the indignity of anything that smacks of socialism or care by the state.

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