Yeah I said it. I went there. The NHS. People say we’re lucky to have the NHS, and maybe they’re right. We’re probably luckier than Ethiopions. We don’t have to pay for our health service like Americans, but that doesn’t mean that the NHS is the greatest health service there’s ever been, and it certainly doesn’t mean it can’t improve.
I recently had a run in with the NHS. I’ve been jogging quite a lot in an effort to reduce the size of my gut, but after a few too many laps of Victoria Park I woke up in agony – my right knee had become swollen and I could barely walk – going downstairs was impossible and to be frank, I felt like Gazza in the 1991 FA Cup Final, writhing around in agony like a Geordie mentalist.
So I booked a doctor’s appointment, and after they were unable to determine the problem, they recommended me for an MRI scan at the hospital. I was told to expect a call from the NHS within the week.
A few days later I received said phone call. They asked me to confirm my name and told me they were calling to book me the scan… but for my LEFT KNEE. I corrected them. It’s my right knee, I told them. But here’s the thing. They didn’t believe me.
“Well it says in my documentation it’s your left knee that’s the problem Mr Crofts” they said. I told them that I was in a considerably better position to know which of my knees hurt, but they were slaves to ‘the documentation’, and would not be moved from their position. It’s the left knee or nothing they said. I told them this was ridiculous, and that an MRI scan on a perfectly good knee would be a waste of time on both our parts, but they stuck to their assessment doggedly. I told them I knew my left from my right and begged them to listen, but no, no, no. Thou shalt not be moved. LEFT KNEE. I repeated my stance. It’s MY knee. I’m looking at it RIGHT NOW. I know which knee hurts. IT’S MY RIGHT KNEE. And they began to waver. “Are you sure?”, they asked. “Quite sure”, I replied. “Because it says here it’s your left knee”, they countered. “Well perhaps your documentation is incorrect?”, I suggested once more. A pause from NHS man. A steely silence. And then? “Well I’m going to have to get the doctor to call you up to confirm this”.
Why would I be lying about my knee, I wonder? Why the distinct lack of trust? Do the NHS suffer from ‘prank patients’ who revel in booking rogue scans and appointments? Is this somehow Jeremy Beadle’s fault after one extreme jape went wrong some twenty five years ago? Flabbergasted, I accept this latest turn of events and await a call from the doctor, which comes several minutes later. And when it does come, I go through the whole process again.
“Are you sure it’s not your LEFT knee?” asks Doctor Doubt. YES. “Because it says on my records that it’s your LEFT KNEE”. I sigh, and confirm once and for all that it is my right knee. The interrogation continues but I stay strong – I know the truth, and I shall stick to it. After some to-ing and fro-ing the doctor reluctantly accepts my diagnosis. I have my appointment! I am going to get an MRI scan of my injured knee and not my healthy knee! HUZZAH!
A good six weeks later I am at the hospital reception, patiently waiting to reach the head of the queue. The last of the patients in front of me hobbles off into the waiting room and I explain why I am here. “I have an MRI scan”, I say. “For my right knee”, I add. “I’m like Gazza, without the fried chicken and the fishing rod”, I joke. The receptionist looks unimpressed. “Is that for your left knee?” she asks. I cry inside.