I am not surprised that researchers from Imperial College London and Oxford University have identified that patients who have been in intensive care do not get all the support they need. I suggest the lack of support goes much further and it’s not just recent either.
I underwent major intestinal surgery 40 years and now realise that I got no physiotherapy or psychological support once I had been discharged. As a teenager, I dealt with this myself with the support of my family, who likewise did not appreciate what I was going through.
Then six years ago when discharged from hospital after a hernia operation, I received no advice that I would suffer severe bruising and rushed round to my GP to find out what was wrong. Again, I had no physiotherapy after discharge and experienced discomfort and, I believe, complications for years following. (I have a relative who still suffers severe discomfort after a hernia operation at the same time. Their GP’s advice: take painkillers and see if it goes away.)
I also suffered badly from the after-effects of anaesthesia and, by chance, found a remedy at our local health food shop. It’s no surprise why people turn to alternative therapies when failed by mainstream services.
So after a sudden, emergency operation three years ago, I knew from my previous experiences what I would have to do myself to combat the anaesthetic’s side-effects, regain fitness and maintain a balanced frame of mind.
I have always been lucky to have a wife and family who look after me very well and support me when I need it. Others are not so fortunate.
I don’t fault the treatment I have received in hospital myself and the staff were magnificent in what they did (although I have seen examples of poor care when visiting elderly relatives). However, care often stops as soon as you’re out of a hospital’s main doors.
I believe this demonstrates a wrong focus by the medical and care professions. A successful NHS, it seems, is judged by how many shiny new hospitals and brand new pieces of equipment it has, not by the extent and reach of the care it provides, which was the case even during the cash-rich hospital-building spree before the economic crisis.
When someone has been in hospital, especially for an operation, they need follow-up, not a letter telling them to contact their GP if they have any problems. Physiotherapy would have got me physically fitter faster. Help dealing with anaesthetic would have meant being more efficient in my business.
As well as helping people to return to fitness and happiness, there are obvious economic benefits. Fitter, happier people are not only more capable of working but also more likely to want to work. I have to admit to having sat like a zombie in front of daytime television when I felt I was capable of nothing else, without even the concentration to read.
Not everyone needs care and sometimes all that is needed is better information and advice. I am perfectly happy to do exercises and look after myself as much as I can to get fit, although there are others who do need far more help.
So, for me, an effective health service would be one that provides comprehensive care, switching its focus to helping people to get fitter and regain their health at home: a rebalancing of investment in people rather than in buildings and machines.