The Eyes Have It

Apologies for not keeping up with your posts today, but I spent a long time at the eye clinic this morning. After two years of waiting, I finally received an appointment for the Glaucoma clinic in Norwich, and attended at 10:30 this morning.

There is no parking there, so it involves driving to Dereham and parking the car, then getting a bus for the forty minute journey into the city. The clinic is not attached to the main hospital, and is in a side street a short walk from the bus station.

On arrival, you check in and wait for your name to be called. Then a technician takes you in for a prolonged eye test. First without wearing your glasses, then with them on. You read out what you can see on the chart, but they don’t tell you if you succeeded in ‘passing’ the test. What follows is a ‘Visual Fields’ test. You have to stare into a machine, one eye at a time. Looking intently at a small bright orange light, you are given a small button to press every time you see a white light flash anywhere inside the screen.

After a while, you are imagining lights where none exist, and forgetting to click the button when you see an obvious one. This takes some time, and once again you have no idea of your success rate.

Then it is back to the waiting room, until you are called in by the Specialist Eye Nurse Practitioner. In that room, your internal eye pressure is taken, after anaesthetic drops have numbed your eyes so that you do not feel the device touching them. Once that is all over, you are allowed to ask how you are doing. My results were encouraging.

Eye Pressure. Good, and less than it was last time. The daily eye drops seem to be working.
Eye Test. Vision good with glasses, less so without. To be expected. No new glasses prescription required.
Visual Fields. In the ‘acceptable’ levels for my age, but far from perfect.

I asked about my cataracts, and was told that they are ‘minimal’ and do not currently require surgery. I was also told that I will not need another appointment for at least a year. Before leaving, I had a painless eye scan in a different room, with a different technician.

By the time I waited for the bus home and then drove back from Dereham, I had been gone for three and a half hours. Ollie was ready for his walk, and fortunately the sun shone, despite a cold breeze.

This evening, my eyes feel sore and tired where they were ‘prodded’. That is only because the anaesthetic had time to wear off of course. They should be fine tomorrow.

As hospital visits go, that was a good one. And it was free of charge, on the NHS.

I will catch up with everyone tomorrow.

In Praise Of Honest Mechanics, And The NHS

Ten days ago, I wrote about my car failing the MOT test, and needing two new tyres.

Always Something

I didn’t use it after driving it home, and then three days later, Julie used it to take her daughter and grandchildren out for the day. They did a fair few miles, and had an enjoyable day. However, when she returnd home that evening, she said she could hear a ‘rubbing noise’ when turning right. I drove into town and back, and couldn’t hear it.

Last Friday, she cut her hand at work. It was in an awkward place on the edge of her right hand, and bleeding badly. So I drove to collect her, leaving her car in the car park. We had two options then. Either drive the shorter distance to the main Norwich Hospital, and possibly wait for many hours to be seen, or drive up to Cromer on the north coast, where there is a minor injuries unit open from 08:00 until 20:00. That seemed the better option, and off we went.

Arriving close to 7:30pm, we wondered if we were going to be too late. But no. An efficient receptionist booked her in, then asked me to wait in the car park due to Covid-19 restrictions. Less than ten minutes after I got back to the car, Julie appeared, her wound closed with steri-strips, and a dressing covering the injury. When you hear so many complaints about our health service, I think it is only right to balance that with praise for the marvellous service we received last Friday.

Well done the NHS.

On the way home, we used the main relief road to avoid Norwich, and it has many roundabouts. Once negotiating those, I could hear the ‘rubbing noise’ that Julie had spoken about previously.

On Sunday morning, I returned to the car repair dealership I had used for the MOT, service, and tyres, and asked them to investigate the noise. The manager drove the car around the forecourt, and agreed he could hear the noise. However, after some examination of the wheels and steering, he was unable to speculate on what might be causing it. He suggested I leave it there overnight, and he would get a more experienced colleague to examine the car today. (Monday) I agreed, and Julie collected me and took me home. Although this Monday is a public holiday in England, they were open from 10:00 until 16:00.

Me being me, I feared the worst. Major repairs just before our holiday, and yet more eye-watering expense. While I was out walking Ollie, Julie rang them just before 1pm, and they said the car was ready. They had found a loose back plate on a front brake disc, and that was moving enough to cause the rubbing sound on full right lock. As they had worked on the car recently, they said they would not be charging me anything at all, because of the possibility that they may have caused the temporary fault.

When I collected the car, they gave me a Diagnostic Wheel Alignment report, telling me they had additionally checked the alignment to put my mind at rest. This alone usually costs £59, but there was no charge. I think good service like this should also be praised, especially for a large chain of car repairers that doesn’t always have the best reputation here.

So, well done to Dereham branch of Kwik Fit too.

Going Private

Sixteen days ago, my wife found a significant lump on her breast. She went into our local doctor’s (where she works as a receptionist) and had it examined. She was told it might just be a benign cyst, but the doctor contacted the Norwich Hospital, and put her on a 14-day referral for investigation. Under government guidelines, potential breast cancer is considered serious, so nobody is allowed to wait more than fourteen days to be seen and examined.

When the fourteen days were up, she phoned the hospital to ask why she had not received an appoinment. They immediately blamed the Covid-19 pandemic, saying that they had to reduce numbers in the clinics, so there were delays approved by the health authority. The told her she might be seen in late December, possibly later than that.

Over two weeks of worrying about a breast lump was beginning to take its toll. Lack of sleep, constant concern, and genuine worry that it might be a cancerous growth spreading out of control.

I decided to telephone the local private hospital, Spire Norwich. As much as it went against all my principles to seek help in the private sector, I was not prepared to let Julie carry on like this for another six to twelve weeks.

The lady apologised that the Wednesday clinic was full. However, if I was prepared to drive to Genesis Healthcare in Newmarket, fifty miles south, they could see my wife on Tuesday. Of course, I accepted the appointment, for 5:10 pm today.

The clinic is very swish, and cost £7,000,000 to set up. I was not allowed to go in with Julie, due to Covid-19 concerns, so had to sit in the car out in the car park. She was welcomed, given a latte coffee, and all of her details were taken by an impeccably polite receptionist. When she was shown in to see the doctor, she was chaparoned by a female nurse, and put at her ease. Following a short examination, the doctor sent her for a mammogram on both breasts. Just in case.

The good news was that he was 99.9% certain it was caused by ‘fatty lumps’. Whilst that may sound a little embarrassing, who cares? It is not cancer. He will arrange to confirm his diagnosis with an ultrasound in around three week’s time, at Norwich Hospital. That will be free of charge, under the NHS.

Julie was in there just over one hour. The charge for that? £460 ($610 US)

Relief all round, nothing sinister.

We had the money to pay the bill. We don’t regularly change our old cars, do not take foreign holidays, or spend money on unnecessary luxuries.

Nobody is a greater defender of the NHS than me. I spent one-third of my life working as an EMT, and my wife still works for the NHS now. But the current problems mean that for the first time ever, it let us down. Consider that the doctor today is a consultant at Norwich Hospital, in his regular job. So too the nurse, and the specialist radiographer. All three were trained at the expense of the Britsh taxpayer, yet the system allows them to work the minimum hours for the NHS, then add lucrative hours at private clinics such as Genesis, to boost their already substantial incomes.

We have both paid into the NHS all our lives, but have been forced to dip into savings to get some treatment that was not offered under the self-imposed rules.

That goes against the grain for me, and makes me seriously doubt the future of the NHS as we once knew it.

A Good Result

Some services in our NHS had to be put on hold when all the resources were being diverted to fighting the pandemic. But they are now coming back, slowly but surely. One of those is the Bowel Cancer Screening Programme. Because of my age, I was invited to take part, and when I agreed, they sent me a home test kit.

It is not the most pleasant thing to have to do, even though it is painless, and non-invasive. Basically, you have to poo into a container that you provide yourself. (A disposable one of course) Then you take a small stick from the plastic vial you have been sent, and rub it around your ‘deposit’ until the marked area is covered. Then it is put back into the vial, secured in its transit envelope, and posted back (free of charge) to the testing centre.

As with any test, the wait can be worrying. If they discover something amiss, it will mean a procedure where a large tube is inserted into your bowel, via your bum of course! That initial test might be followed by scans, or other procedures deemed necessary.

My result came back in the post today, after a week. I was very happy to get the all-clear, and require no more testing at the moment. They will send me another test kit in two years from now.

Such screening programmes are worth participating in. They are catching potentially fatal diseases before they have had time to take a hold on your body, and reducing the need for subsequent surgery and other therapies. And they are free too.

Yet again, I have to say we are lucky to have the NHS.

UPDATE: Covid Comes Knocking

Following my post yesterday, things moved fast. Julie persisted online, and was eventually offered a test at a place outside of Norwich, 25 miles away. As she was too unwell to drive, I took her there.

They sent a Q-Code to her phone, and she had to take that, and a photo I.D. She also had to provide the registration number of her car, so we took her car instead of mine. The test offered was in a time window from 5:30 PM until 6:00 PM, and we could not be late, or might not get the test.

One of the large Park and Ride bus car parks north of Norwich has been closed up, and completely taken over as a government test centre. It was signposted with special signs once you turned off the main road. On arrival, it is a strange experience. Large signs instruct you to KEEP WINDOWS CLOSED. Wearing a mask on a hot day in a closed up car was uncomfortable, but didn’t last long.

Once you are in the queue of cars, it doesn’t take long to get to the front. Then you are waved to a spot by one of the staff, and they hold up printed signs, so they don’t have to speak to you.


Then you are directed to drive under a temporary shelter. A young man stepped forward with more cards.


The number to be called turned out to be a mobile phone he was carying, and he stood next to the car chatting to Julie on his phone, telling her what to do. A sealed test kit was then dropped into the car through a partially open window, and we had to move up into another space, where Julie had to open the bag, and remove the items to test herself. After swabbing her throat and nostril, she had to seal the container into two bags. The man took a reading of the Q-Code again, and scanned the barcode on the test kit, then we were told to drive up to a cabin by the exit.

A young woman holding a large plastic bin appeared with more signs.


When this was done, she removed the barrier, and we were on out way home. The whole thing took ninety minutes from home and back again, and operated very smoothly. It had a strange dystopian feel to it all though, like being extras in a science-fiction film. A note included in the test kit said the reuslts would be available within 48 hours, and would be sent to Julie’s phone and email.

This morning at 9 am, she received a text that her test result was NEGATIVE.

The whole experience left me thinking about a few things. For one, the NHS really did well, after the shaky start when we were offered a test 100 miles away. So you have to keep trying online, and tests are available locally, until 8:00 PM. But then I thought about people who don’t have a car. They are not allowed to walk into that test centre, and no public transport can get you to it either. And what if they are not online, have no access to any computer, and don’t have a mobile phone? There must be some other way of course, but I bet it is not easy to arrange.

For those readers outside of the UK, remember this is all totally free of charge for us here.

So no complaints from me.

Virus Deaths: Racism?

I am reblogging this from my other site, as I find the whole thing very worrying and disturbing.


I have been reading and watching the growing number of disturbing reports in Britain that claim the fact that virus deaths are disproportionate in people from backgrounds that include African, West Indian, and the Indian sub-continent are ‘deliberate negligence’. There is a Facebook group of British Muslims who openly accuse the NHS and the government of allowing their relatives to die, because of their ethhnicity. One member even called it ‘ethnic cleansing’.

Now I see on the BBC that the new Labour Party leader is calling for a public enquiry into this, and it is to be led by Baroness Lawrence, a black woman who is famous for campaigning for justice for her murdered son many years ago.

I have to say that I personally find these accusations to be appalling. I worked in the NHS for 22 years, and know many who still do, including my own wife. I…

View original post 619 more words

Breaking News: Boris has the virus. (Or not)

The BBC has just broadcast a ‘home video’ of our Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, saying he has to ‘self-isolate’ in his official residence.

According to him, he has had a ‘high temperature’, and a ‘persistent cough’. After testing, it was confirmed that he has the virus.

During the broadcast of three minutes or so long, he didn’t cough once. He didn’t even try to suppress a cough. And he looked very well, not at all like someone suffering from a high temperature.

According to the news report, he was ‘tested at Ten Downing Street by NHS staff’. Presumably some of those same overworked NHS staff run off their feet caring for seiously ill people in nearby London hospitals. And using test kits that are supposedly in ‘short supply’. And look how fast his results came back! Same day service, it would seem.

One of his cronies took to the telephone, stating, “This shows no matter how high you are, whether a Prince, or Prime Minister, nobody is safe from contracting this virus”.

That short statement from former Conservative Prime Minister Iain Duncan-Smith says it all. Tell the plebs the Prince has got it. Then tell us that Johnson has got it, and that’s supposed to make us feel better when one of our untested relatives dies in isolation.

My message to both Boris and Prince Charles is that I am not falling for it. Not until I see your bodies being carried out in coffins for incineration.

And even then, I want to look inside to make sure.

The Real Cost Of Private Medicine

After my post about going to see the doctor yesterday, my dear blogging friend Kim sent me a link to a very interesting video. This may be of great interest to British readers.

Few of us here know much about private health care, although a percentage of people do pay into a scheme to get preferential, or faster treatment. Having a pet might make you realise just how expensive treatment and drugs can be these days, as I have found out with Ollie’s trips to the Vet.

In this short film, random people on a British street are asked to guess the cost of medical treatments and drugs in America, for example an asthma inhaler.

Their answers are very interesting.

Given the recent publicity about government ministers considering significant changes to the NHS and overall healthcare provision in this country, this is something we all need to be aware of.

In the UK, an ambulance callout costs you £0 in medical bills. The birth of your child costs you £0 in medical bills. In the USA, it’s a different story.

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Going to the Doctor.

I know I did a post on Thinking Aloud yesterday, but I woke up thinking about something this morning, so you get an extra one.

When I was young, my Mum used to take me to the doctor. But I had to be quite bad before she went that far. Not that we had to pay anything, because we had the NHS. That had come into being five years before I was born, and the working-class people where I lived in London were incredibly grateful for it. So my Mum would not bother a doctor with anything trivial, as she had too much respect for this new service.

The system was very different back then. No need to telephone for an appointment, just turn up for morning or evening surgery, and wait your turn. Most people where I lived didn’t have a telephone anyway, so appointments wouldn’t have worked. We sat on long benches around the walls of the waiting room. The first person to arrive sat closest to the door leading through to the doctor, and everyone took their place in turn, with not a thought of queue-jumping.

The only distraction provided for those waiting was a stack of old magazines piled on a small table in the centre of the room. I saw my first ever copies of National Geographic, along with the familiar Reader’s Digest, and some newspapers left behind by anyone who had already left. There were no screens offering TV or recorded messages, and definitely no toys for the amusement of children. We were expected to behave, and we did.

Nobody talked to each other either, even though many of the faces were familiar, and some of those in the waiting room were well-known to us. It wasn’t done to discuss your ailments in that situation, or to ask anyone else why they were there to see the doctor. When it got to our turn, the doctor opened the door and we walked in. There was no calling-out of our name, and no mention of whether or not he knew us. His office was like a study, and he sat at his desk with a serious demeanour. Once he had heard the story, and perhaps made some examination, he would either tell us what to do, or give out a prescription for the necessary medication, which was also free then.

Everyone called him ‘Doctor’, even though his name was on a sign on his desk. He was better educated than anyone we knew, and older than my Mum, and most of the others in the waiting room. His word was never challenged or questioned, and his advice or treatment was always acted upon. He was a doctor, so that was enough for us. We looked on him with some reverence, and gave him respect, and our best manners at all times. In return, he was polite, caring, and efficient. He was also rather condescending and superior, but I didn’t realise that at the time. Once he had finished with us, profuse thanks were in order, and even when I was still very young, I was taught to say “Thank you, doctor”, before we left his consulting room.

Things are very different now.

Getting an appointment can be exceptionally difficult in some areas of Britain, especially in the big cities. Most doctor’s surgeries have three or four doctors working there, to cope with the increased workload. They also employ skilled nurses to deal with minor injuries and illnesses, as well as technicians to take blood, or receive samples. At our local doctor’s we no longer have to go anywhere else to collect drugs or medicines, as they have a pharmacy attached, operated by three full-time staff. You can even get minor surgical procedures done there, which saves travelling to the hospital like we used to have to. In my opinion, the expansion of such facilities into larger clinics has been a positive move, and the doctors seem to be younger and more dedicated too.

But the most noticeable change has been in the attitude of the patients. Despite the provision of toys and games, children run around like crazy all over the place. Their parents stare into their phones, generally ignoring the bad behaviour. And people argue. They shout at the receptionists, complain that they haven’t bee seen quick enough, and debate their treatment with the doctor, based on some rubbish they have read on Facebook, or looked up online.

Despite being able to telephone, or book an appointment time using the Internet, many still just walk in and expect to be seen immediately. The last sixty years have imbued the people of this country with a sense of entitlement, and a worrying arrogance. They threaten staff, complain to local authorities, and take to Social Media to moan about the service at the local doctor’s.

They should think themselves lucky that we have such a system funded my small National Insurance payments, and backed up by huge amounts of public money. They are not old enough to remember a time when you queued patiently, sometimes for hours, and gave respect to the people who were treating you.

My conclusion is that if those people can get to the doctor’s just to be rude and horrible, they are not sick enough to be there in the first place.

A Hospital Visit

On Monday afternoon, I had an appointment at the eye clinic in Norwich.

I have Glaucoma, and the beginnings of cataracts, so I have been attending eye clinics since I still lived in London. To reduce the pressure in my eyes, I take a twice-daily eye drop of a beta-blocker medicine, called Timolol. I cannot do anything about the cataracts, and they will eventually require surgery.

I drove up to Dereham, and caught a bus into Norwich. The bus travel was free, as I have had a free bus pass since I was 62 years old. That is funded by the government from the National Insurance payments I made when I was working, and I can potentially go anywhere in the UK using it, with no charge at all.
(But only on a scheduled bus, not coaches or trains)

A short walk from the bus station to the clinic, and I was booked in and waiting with other people for the tests. The first one was a conventional eye test, with each eye covered in turn. Following that, I had a ‘Visual Fields’ test, where I had to use a ‘clicker’ to record various lights appearing on a screen in front of me. I then had to wait in a room, until I was called in for the next procedure.

This involves a localised liquid anesthetic, dropped into my eye, and another drug that dilates my pupils. After that takes, I have to sit with my head in a device, as a small brush is moved into contact with my eyeball, measuring the pressure inside as it touches it. I don’t enjoy this part, although it is not painful. And as usual today, the technician had to physically keep my eyelid open with his fingers, to get an accurate reading. That was followed by a painless photograph of the back of my eye, the results looking something like a photo of the planet Mars.

A quick chat followed, and after ninety minutes spent in the clinic, I was allowed to leave, until next year. The results will be sent to the ‘main man’, at the hospital. If he needs to follow-up, I will get a letter.

The point of this post is that all of this was ‘free’, including the bus travel both ways. ( 40 miles, round trip) My lifetime of contributing to National Insurance through my salaries had completely covered the cost, including the monthly eye drops. And even if I had been unable to work, and had never contributed, it would still be provided, free of charge.
This is the NHS, which with all it faults, is still a wonderful institution.

The next time my friends who live in countries without a good healthcare system are thinking about their health insurance costs, and the price of drugs in that country, maybe they should consider campaigning for something similar.