Our anniversary weekend took a turn for the unexpected. Instead of looking longingly into each others’ eyes over champagne afternoon tea, we got to sample the delights of our local hospital.
With impeccable seasonal timing, Mrs YFG’s appendix decided it wanted out. Apparently, it had less patience than Mrs YFG and had enough of my FI nonsense.
In praise of the mighty NHS
I may complain in this article. And about everything in life. But you can turn up to any hospital in the UK and be seen and treated (eventually) free of charge. It is something to be immensely grateful for.
In doing some background research for this post I looked around to find out how much an Appendicectomy costs. The NHS tariff (link) for 2018/19 ranges from about £2,000 to £5,000. Which is a pretty hefty sum of money.
This is completely blown out of the water by the cost in the US. I couldn’t find up to date figures. But the most recent I could find (2016) gives an average cost of over $20,000!
FI in the UK
For me, this highlights one of the big reasons why us Brits (and Europeans) have a big advantage over our US cousins in saving for Financial Independence.
I know, that no matter what illness I get, I’ll be treated for free by world-class medical professionals. They’ll do what it takes for me to get better. At no point do I have to worry about insurance coverage, deductibles/excess, out of pocket expenses or getting the chequebook out (if I can find it).
Not only is that a huge financial win. It’s an even bigger psychological win. One of the least predictable, but potentially most costly one-off expenses is something I will never need to worry about.
Putting all the politics aside, I just can’t understand how people can’t get behind that.
For balance, I ought to touch on some of the frustrations.
Despite being a huge fan of the NHS it is incredibly frustrating to see how poorly it operates. Partly because with some effective management you could see how awesome it could be. Partly because it feels like the excellent, hard-working staff are being utterly let down.
Overall Mrs YFG went in for emergency surgery on Friday and left on Sunday morning with the surgery performed successfully. But hidden within that successful outcome were several bumps:
- On Friday, Mrs YFG spent 12 hours in an A&E bed waiting for a ward bed. Despite her asking the nurses whether she could give up her bed for somebody else in need, she laid there waiting. It was only at ten to midnight she was finally moved to
a ward(the sceptic in me suggests this was just in time to meet some various ‘targets’).
- Whilst in A&E she spent 4 hours on a penicillin drip. All fine, except that Mrs YFG is allergic to penicillin. Something she has repeatedly told this exact hospital several times before. Still it’s not in her medical notes for some reason. She’s still suffering the after-effects of the reaction.
- Whilst waiting to find out if she needed surgery she wasn’t offered water, food or IV. After 6 hours she caved in and had something to drink and eat. Just in time for the doctors to come round and ask why she was being allowed to eat and drink. Apparently, they had communicated to the A&E team that Mrs YFG needed surgery. Nobody thought it was a good idea to let Mrs YFG know that.
- On Saturday morning, the surgery went all fine and Mrs YFG was back in her pretty fancy electric adjustable bed (which she adjusted literally every 47 seconds…) However, she then had to wait 5 hours for her post-op pain relief. Apparently, her respiratory rate was very low so morphine was out of the picture. Instead, the nurses decided that no pain meds would be a better idea. Again Mrs YFG wasn’t told any of this. After much begging on my part, Mrs YFG finally received her pain meds just before
- The irony is that the doctors were happy to discharge Mrs YFG provided she was given the medication to go home with. Of course, the hospital pharmacy shuts at
5pm. So by not getting their act together, Mrs YFG went without meds and taking up a bed.
- On Sunday morning Mrs YFG waited for the paperwork to come through and get discharged. The surgeon came through at
9amto check whether she was still on the ward. He told her that she was all good to go, he’d signed off and she’d be out in an hour. Once Mrs YFG had her paperwork and meds she could go home. Four hours later Mrs YFG was still waiting for the paperwork.
- At that point, the ‘bed master’ came round and turfed Mrs YFG out. Without her paperwork or meds. Several hours later I made a round trip to the hospital to pick up her paperwork. The meds ‘weren’t ready yet’. They’re still not ready to this day. I like to think there is a box of codeine floating around in purgatory somewhere.
- On Thursday Mrs YFG went to visit the GP for a check-up. They didn’t know why she was there (despite having sent her to A&E in the first place). They had no records. Nor had they heard from the hospital or received any of the records. Thankfully (being a weirdo lawyer) Mrs YFG had taken along all the records which the GP transcribed down by hand.
But for the grace of god
None of this is particularly new or surprising to me (one of my close family members worked in the NHS before packing it in and going private). We know people who’ve had much worse experiences. That’s something to be grateful for.
It all rather leaves me glad the NHS is there but I hope I rarely have to use it. A bit like a parachute. It’ll do the job when you need it, though it’ll be terrifying in places and you hope it never gets to that.
Mrs YFG got through it fine. But it strikes me that she received just enough medical attention such that things didn’t go tits up.
That said, hospitals aren’t supposed to be fun places right?
All the best,
P.S. A Merry Christmas to all you lovely readers. I wish you all a great time with family and friends!