I had a check-up appointment at Moorfields booked for Monday 4 June. You will note, dear Reader, my use of the past tense in that sentence. For, late on Wednesday afternoon I received a voicemail from Moorfields telling me that my appointment had been cancelled due to not enough doctors and too many patients. Upon receiving this news, I let out a massive internal howl of, “Noooooooooooooooooo!”, before indulging in a short fit of wailing once I reached the safety of home. I then promptly regretted this, as it just made my eyes ache more.
As my eye buddies know all too well, my reaction to this news is about far more than a cancelled appointment. I approach my check-ups at Moorfields in fear and dread. The build-up starts a good couple of weeks beforehand each time, as my anxiety builds and insomnia becomes my nightly companion. “What will they say?”, I wonder to myself. “Will the detached part of my retina have progressed any further? Will the 360 degree laser line be holding firm? What of the abnormal blood-vessels – will they have worsened? Will my eye pressures be satisfactory? Will my cornea still be healthy, with the oil in? And my good eye… will it be okay? Or will it – heaven forbid – have developed more tears? Will the lattice degeneration be any worse? Will they want – or need – to perform yet more surgery, or will I gain another reprieve? How will I cope if more surgery is necessary?” All these questions, and more, clamour in my ears like a huge orchestra tuning up for a performance.
Along with all the questions, I increase my ever-so-slightly-obsessive visual checking as the appointment looms ominously on the horizon. I wrote about this a while ago, in ‘Pre-appointment paranoia‘. The stress builds and builds until usually it reaches a crescendo during the appointment itself, at the point at which the consultant has finished the examination, scribbled the notes down, and sat back to tell me the results and allow me to ask as many questions as I can cram in. Depending on the news, the crescendo is either one of glorious, melodic harmonies, or a clashing of cymbals and change in tempo as the key abruptly switches to minor. This cancellation of my appointment is equivalent to the entire orchestra standing up and dropping their instruments onto the concrete floor with a collective crash; leaving a solitary violinist, oblivious in the corner, plucking forlornly at a broken string.
I don’t even have a new appointment date to focus on yet. Although I rang Moorfields straight back, there was nobody available. I rang the following day during my lunch break at work and spent most of it listening to a calm, automated voice informing me that I was “number one in the queue”. I think they’d actually all gone to lunch and left the telephone queueing system switched on. After about 35 minutes of this, I gave up and sought solace in my cheese and cucumber sandwiches. I eventually got through after work, and was told that a new appointment wasn’t available yet as they had to slot everyone back in.
As with my only other previously cancelled appointment (have a read of, ‘Q: What’s more stressful than an impending eye appointment?‘), I don’t blame Moorfields for this. Like me, anyone in the UK who has to attend eye clinics on a regular basis will be able to see clearly (even through the foggy haze of the dilation drops) how busy they are. The clinics are always packed with patients, the consultants and doctors often have that look which means they know just how many patients are waiting and they’re wondering how on earth they’re going to get through them all in time. The nurses hurry back and forth, and the receptionists have a slightly frazzled air about them, not helped by the occasional impatient patient asking if they’re going to have to wait much longer [pause while I tut and metaphorically roll my eyes].
So… if us eye patients with our dodgy vision can see so clearly that the NHS needs more resources to cope with demand, my question is: why can’t the government? It needs no avid follower of the news to tell us that the NHS is in crisis. Why isn’t the government doing anything about it? Why is the government privatising it by stealth? The NHS will reach its 70th birthday this July. In today’s world, 70 is far from decrepit. (My mum will be very glad to read that.) There is much useful life to be lived beyond the age of 70, but many people may just need a little more care and attention. However, the government doesn’t seem able to see this, and I can’t help but observe that this lack of vision appears to stem from idiocy rather than from myopia. It strikes me that the government views the NHS as a particularly cantankerous decrepit pensioner, whom it just wants to shove into a grubby care home out of sight as quickly as possible. I genuinely fear for the future of the NHS. Further discussion on that is probably best left for another post. But in the meantime, what should we do? I might take out my frustrations by writing to my MP and including a free eye test voucher for Specsavers…
*Obviously I had a considerably stronger adjective in mind, but being a family-friendly blog and all that…