Margaret Gow: It’s such a shame NHS care isn’t all to the same timely standard

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For those who know about my move, I’m still opening boxes - 14 more over the past two weeks - and getting pretty hot and bothered in this weather.

But not so much as I did a week last Thursday, when I volunteered to accompany one of my fellow-residents (let’s call her Pat) to Leicester Royal Infirmary to have a cataract removed from her eye. She was terrified and needed her hand held, so remembering how quick and easy my own experiences last year were in Peterborough, I had no qualms.

We left Market Harborough at ten, in plenty of time for her appointment at 11.00 am and in fact we got to LRI at twenty to the hour. Little did I know...

Firstly, the letter for her preliminary visit had said nothing about removing her contact lenses a week before having her eyes measured so going had been a waste of time, and this had to be done first, on Floor 4. Nobody knew a thing about it; then someone found that her notes were on Floor 6, so had to be recovered. A wait... finally we trooped up to Floor 6 after having to evacuate a lift for a bed case, and found Ophthamology Reception at 11.40 am. We sat and waited some more in a very hot room with all the lights on and one electric fan for the patients which didn’t oscillate. We asked where Pat was on the theatre list. (“We” included the volunteer driver who had brought us, by the way), but the receptionist didn’t know.

However, at 12.20 Pat’s name was called, and she disappeared. Since not only had I thought we’d take just a morning so I didn’t bring any money, I didn’t bring my shingles pills either, so it was a great relief to find things moving. Or so we thought.

The driver decided to go and get some air and lunch; I stayed put as I imagined in my naivety that she would be only away for some ten minutes - which was all it took for each of my eyes to be done last July in Peterborough. Hah!

Dear Readers, would you believe that’s the last we saw of Pat until about a quarter past four and she had been third on the list. But for the afternoon session!

During her absence I had plenty of time after reading my newspaper to look at two notices on the far wall. To my horror, they said that patients arriving at 7.30am - yes, seven-thirty - may still be there at 2.00pm, and those arriving at midday could still be being dealt with at 6.30pm!! I couldn’t believe it.

Before I looked at this piece of paper, I was imagining that all kinds of things had gone wrong with Pat’s operation, not only her eye, but maybe she had been so upset she had had a heart attack, or even been disposed of down a chute somewhere and lay in the basement!

At about three I managed to cadge a cup of tea and three biscuits from a kind nurse as I was feeling somewhat faint by then; Pat got nothing until after four, as she wasn’t even allowed so much as a drink of water until after her operation. What amazed me was her sanguine acceptance of the system.

But no wonder Leicester Royal has such an awful reputation. I do understand that they are overworked and under-resourced, but I can’t help thinking that it is most uncaring bureaucracy to expect people who are in distress to be made to arrive almost together, and kept for hours and hours awaiting treatment.

For Pat to be sent for in the morning for an operation which was not going to happen after two o’clock, when the doctors (not described as surgeons) arrived together, does not promote a good image. Silly me - I thought doctors (and surgeons) are paid to treat us, not for patients to await their pleasure: in my younger days being a doctor was a calling, not a job.

It makes me feel very grateful indeed for the seamless experience I had with my eyes in 2014, and sorry that not all the NHS can be of the same standard, everywhere.”