Burton Hospital Eye Outpatients, 26 June 2020
Exchanges between hospital staff (HS) and me.
Me Good morning. Outpatients, 9.30.
HS assumed: can I have your name please?
Me Sorry I’m deaf, can’t hear.
HS still not loud enough: can I have your name please?
Me I need to see your lips move, so please can you take your mask off?
This does not go down well. After giving the requested information:
HS We don’t seem to have your phone number. Can you let me have it?
Me after having given it: that’s odd, you know, because somebody rang me last Monday to tell me about the appointment, and somebody rang me yesterday to confirm that I would attend.
HS bluster bluster.
Me Upstairs as usual?
After an affirmative nod, up I go. Upstairs is laid out differently from last time. I normally sit on the left to be near the place where staff call for patients, since none of them speaks very clearly. After about 20 minutes having been ignored:
Me Am I in the right place?
HS Have you had your temperature taken?
HS Well, you should be over there in a red chair.
Me after moving: It might be a good idea if the receptionist were to tell people that.
HS There are notices in the lift and on the stairs.
Me thinking: Notices? Notices? In small print? FFS, this is an eye clinic.
But I merely smile and relocate my backside.
Before long my sight has been tested, my right retina scanned, and in I go to the consultant. All very pleasant, though taking longer than usual. The consultant is very gently spoken and not easy for me to hear.
HS What sort of surgery have you had?
Me perplexed since he has the notes in front of him: Well I had the procedure that fries the ciliary apparatus last year and in 2018.
HS Here? In the theatre downstairs?
HS You had retinal surgery (not a question).
HS No, not here, that was in Derby in 2008 by Mr Chen.
Him So what was the operation here?
Me after dredging my memory: cyclodiode laser treatment.
Me Yes, twice. You have the notes there: is there no record?
HS Well, I can’t find them. Those records are digitized and kept offsite. We are completely in the dark.
Me trying to keep a straight face: that’s crazy ridiculous.
HS shrug of the shoulders: That’s the way it is. Tell me when you had the cyclodiode.
So I did, and he wrote it down.
Ocular pressure on both sides is good. Glaucoma on the right is under control. It turns out I have a substantial cataract on the right, as well as glaucoma. Because that’s my only functioning eye, and surgery carries the risk of my being left totally blind, his advice is to live with the cataract until normal daily activities become impossible. I’m happy enough with that. I ask if successful surgery would mean that I could drive, to which the response is probably not.
After these moderately entertaining exchanges, he rationalises my seven lots of eye drops to five.
This is good, except that he insists that the drops I use should be from individual sachets without preservative, rather than with preservatives from a plastic bottle (cheaper). It seems the preservatives are damaging my corneas. He tells me that I must insist that the GP prescribes the individual sachets and not the generic drops in plastic bottles. Knowing as I do how difficult it is even to get a GP appointment, I express doubt that this will work and tell him why.
HS Oh well, that’s the problem we all have to deal with. Good luck.
Then I’m dismissed with cordial farewells and I pootle off to hospital pharmacy to get the first new prescription. Do you know it takes 50 minutes to find two boxes, put them in a plastic bag, and give them to me?
I don’t fault the treatment one little bit. Burton Hospital has been very good to me. But I do wonder about administration, record keeping, the ability of one computer system to talk to another, and the difficulty people seem to have in imagining what it’s like from a patient’s perspective.
All hail the NHS!