What's most apparent both at A&E level and throughout the hospital we were transferred to is that everything is at capacity. At the Bristol Royal Infirmary Majors dept there wasn't a bed free and as soon as there was, another ambulance arrived with another critically unwell person. Having said that, the treatment was exemplary, not just medically but on a human scale. Both nurses and doctors, whilst obviously at peak capacity, took time and effort to explain what they thought was going on, what was being suggested and how the conclusions being brought were going to impact on the patient.
But the incredible care started long before we got to A&E. Calling 111 can sometimes feel like a thankless task but hearing Mr V crying in pain in the background the operator put us immediately through to a doctor who immediately called an ambulance and stayed on the phone until the ambulance crew arrived. When they did arrive not only were they professional, calm and caring, but they took their time and understood that there was a level of confusion in the patient caused by acute pain, exhaustion and a huge cocktail of pain relief. Not only did they make quick, definite decisions, but they kept us both informed and were supportive of both patient and career. They even made sure I had the cash to catch the bus into town so I could just get dressed and organised and follow straight away.
We were transferred from Bristol Royal Infirmary to Southmead by the same crew, who ought to have been headed for a meal break but offered to take us as they knew our history, that we were both somewhat terrified by the speed at which things were progressing and felt they could offer the necesssry support. I will forever be grateful to that crew.
Once we arrived at Southmead again we were treated speedily, professionally and with the ultimate respect. Nurses, doctors and anaesthetists all spent precious time with us, going through options, explaining what they thought was best and why and going over what had brought them to this conclusion. It felt that kindness, respect and patient care was firmly at the core of everything they were doing, and that carried through until we left. Every single member of staff treated us as humans, respecting our need to ask questions and being very honest with their answers but also realising our vulnerabilities, never rushing decisions.
For me this is such an important story to tell. We know the NHS is having funding cut right, left and centre and we know it is stretched to beyond capacity. We know difficult decisions are being made every day and that in many places hospitals are struggling to cope, with people waiting in A&E departments for hours at a time. There are terrible tales.
We're also aware that there is privatisation happening in our hospitals. Costa coffee and M&S food stores, pharmacies run by high street chemists and outsourced catering are all signs of that happening before our eyes.
So what can we do?
Well share your positive stories is a good and important start. Our story isn't the only one, and we know that because we saw other people all around us being treated just as amazingly. We saw people at their most vulnerable being treated with care and kindness. We saw relatives having complex issues and procedures explained to them as if they were the only family in the building. We listened as a man crashed and a team brought him back in away that made you know that not only did that team have the backs of the patients but also each other. We saw pressured nurses seeing relatives concerned and upset making sure they looked after them as well as they were the actual patient.
Looking back I realise Mr V was an emergency case all the way through the first day, although I didn't realise that at the time, mainly due to the calm of all those amazing people. From arriving at Southmead to going to surgery took less than two hours, which is extraordinary. And just to point out the obvious, all of this was completely free.
So let's tell these positive tales, support our NHS in any way we can, and demand our government supports this wonderful institution. Being without it is a terrifying thought and one that we must ensure never happens.