In praise of the NHS.
I had to attend for my annual eye clinic appointment today (Tuesday). They have moved the clinic from the main hospital in Norwich, to a specialist facility close to the city centre. I got a bus in, and arrived in good time. I have to go, as I have Glaucoma. This is a condition where the fluid in the eye builds up pressure, and can be a cause of blindness, if not treated. I use eye drop medication on a regular basis to suppress this pressure, so have to have an annual check, to make sure it is still under control.
When you are there, they also carry out a normal eye test, a visual fields check, and take photos of the inside of your eyes. It takes about an hour to have all three tests done, as well as the pressure test. That involves anaesthetic eye drops, so that a probe can be pushed against your eyeball, to measure the pressure. Then more drops widen your pupils, so that they can look inside with a magnifying lens, and an incredibly bright light. None of it is painful, but it is quite weird to have to be conscious, and watch something coming straight at your eyes like that.
When I arrived at the new clinic today, I was suitably impressed. Almost no queue, smart surroundings, and a very calm and soothing atmosphere. It was obviously a private facility, easy to tell that as soon as the receptionist welcomed you on arrival. The young lady who did the general test asked me to take home a customer satisfaction form, so I asked her if it was a private organisation. She told me that it was a privately-funded venture, directly employed by the Eye Department of Norwich Hospital. As their waiting list was so large now, and they do not have enough specialist doctors, they have decided to outsource these essential annual checks.
I moved on to see the optometrist. Not a doctor, but a Glaucoma specialist and diagnostic expert. He was very professional, and friendly too. Happy to chat about anything, and taking his time over the procedures. He discussed his findings at some length, and told me that he would be writing a report to the hospital consultant, appraising him of the results, and his own opinions. After just over an hour, I was finished and back out on the street, heading for the bus station.
For those of you who have asked me about this issue, and shown much appreciated concern, there was some good news. The optometrist advised me that a new prescription for my spectacles would alleviate most of my current symptoms. Although I have cataracts visible in both eyes, only the right one is big enough to be considered for surgery, and not just at the moment. The pressures were normal, and if anything, the left eye is still virtually 20-20, with only the right eye causing any concern. So, if I can avoid surgery, and improve my eyesight by buying new spectacles, then it is all good news.
It is worth noting that this was all 100% free of charge, covered by my years of paying a small amount into the NHS via National Insurance deducted from my salary. If for some reason I never paid into this, (as a full-time housewife, for example) it would still be free. Even the bus to and from the hospital was free, courtesy of my senior citizen bus pass. And although I will have to pay something for the new spectacles, the optician’s eye test will also be free, as I am a pensioner. The continuing need for eye drops will also cost me nothing, as I am over 60.
So, well done, the NHS. You are very good indeed, at least as far as I can see.
(Apologies for the shameless puns, in both the title, and the last line)