I love the NHS. It is one of the finest institutions in the world, and it is so popular people come from all over the world to try to take advantage of it. Free at the point of use. Magic words! Unfortunately, we face losing our beloved institution. Unlike popular thinking, this is not just the fault of our government. It is OUR fault. It is astonishing how many people abuse the system.
A&E should NOT be the first port of call for every minor grievance. We complain of long queues in A&E, but that is because people go in with colds, mild headaches, splinters (that are easily removable), sore throats, bad period pains, because they are drunk, and with issues that have been going on for weeks.
A&E should be for EMERGENCIES only. You should only ever go to A&E if you feel your life is in danger or if you have had accidents that can’t be treated elsewhere, like broken bones. But even broken bones can be sorted in some walk-in clinics. It really should be for when you are at death’s door or fear you are becoming seriously ill.
There are many branches to the NHS, and some are underused. For mild conditions like athletes foot, thrush, the morning after pill etc. you can see any local pharmacist that is part of the minor ailments scheme. They are able to prescribe treatments for a number of illnesses (a list can be found on the NHS website). Your GP should be dealing with any ongoing issues, you shouldn’t just decide you have had enough of feeling under the weather and go to A&E.
However, the GP’s are overcrowded, again because people go in for silly reasons. If you have a cold, don’t spread your germs around, have some paracetamol and hot lemon then go to bed and rest it off. Doctors can’t give you antibiotics for a virus. Stop asking for it. They wont work, and in fact will do you more harm than good, because one day we will run out of antibiotics since their overuse has made bugs immune to them! That is why we have super bugs like MRSA. You don’t need to walk out of the office with a prescription every single time. Honest!
There is also your out of hours doctors for when symptoms worsen when your regular doctors is closed. They should be used before going to A&E if you don’t believe you are seriously ill and need to be admitted to hospital. They are there to help!
We also have 111. The new ‘NHS Direct’. This should be used when you have an urgent problem that doesn’t require a phone call to 999. They will help figure out where you need to be (out of hours doctors, A&E, in bed at home etc). They can provide advice to help make you more comfortable, and about how to treat at home if that is what’s best.
This is a decent website to look at and it covers more of what the NHS offers.
Not everything is simple, and I understand that. Sometimes a cold is pneumonia, a headache is a tumour and sore throats are throat cancer. Ultimately the choice of which service you pick is yours. Only you will know how bad you feel. I think many people who use A&E know whether they are there for the right or wrong reasons. We live in a world where people don’t expect to be unwell and when they are feel they should just get some tablets to feel better instantly. It doesn’t always work like that. Sometimes we need to feel rough for a week or two while our bodies do their amazing thing and defeat the virus.
If people would only accept that, and accept we don’t have a cure for everything, perhaps there will be less stress on the NHS. We have the power to make the choices that are best for us. And the fact that it will benefit the NHS too is great!! When we pick the right service we are making sure we get the best possible care. If we all did it, it would reduce waiting times across the board and ensure we are getting the best possible care for our needs. Don’t forget, in A&E you often get trainee doctors that are trained in emergency medicine, not the more mundane ailments. You will find the service you receive is better when you pick the right place.
There are talks of making people pay to go to A&E to try to combat this problem. That goes against the very nature of the NHS but is a real possibility if we carry on abusing it. So I say now is the time to take action and think before you start that drive to the hospital.
Say you are having a heart attack, and you are waiting to be triaged. If the three people in front of you were all there for minor ailments that a pharmacist could have solved, would you be happy? Knowing that the damage from a heart attack gets greater the longer it is going on for? Or what if you were the patient going in with something minor and you find out the guy two people behind you in the queue just dropped dead and may have been saved if he hadn’t of had wait for you? These aren’t just theories. I was genuinely in a triage queue with a man having a heart attack… and the guy in front of us had a cold. Fortunately in this instance the man having the heart attack was fine. But it could have been worse.
To save our NHS, we need to change our behaviours before we start campaigning against the government.