Eyeful

I was looking forward to being able to report that I’d had my second cataract operation, and am now ready to go out and face the world again with fresh sharp technicolor vision. It was not to be. I’ve just got home from St George’s in Tooting following a wasted day. After arriving in good time for my noon appointment, around 5pm Sister and one of the surgeons came to me—separately—to say that unfortunately there was no time left this afternoon to perform the surgery. (And me not having eaten since the crack of dawn because I was supposed to have sedation.) Almost the same thing happened on my previous visit a month earlier for treatment to the first eye. On that occasion the operation was carried out only at the very end of the afternoon.

I don’t want to go telling tails, but from what they each told me, it’s obvious that the two teams here—the ward team and the crew in theatre (‘the firm’, as the surgeon calls it)—are not working very well together. In fact it’s dysfunctional to the point of affecting patients. I’m not at all interested in apportioning blame between them, especially since I’m told that this is the typical experience throughout St.George’s. Anyway, my own inconvenience is minor compared to some, only a pinprick compared to what’s been going on in the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust. But it’s a continuum, and the Mids Staffs Inquiry is quite rightly being criticised for having too narrow terms of reference. In other words, what I’ve just experienced is clearly systemic.

What both saddens and angers me is that I believe in the National Health Service. And the people who work in it don’t want it to be this way. But a managerialist culture has been imposed—and this goes back long before the present lot took up residence in Westminster—which is actually incompetent at managing. Their time is doubtless spent massaging the figures for the audit. On my first visit to St.George’s for assessment, when a date for the first eye was proposed and I said I couldn’t do it before mid-January, there was a shaking of heads: that was outside the three-month target for this type of operation, so I’d have to come back for another assessment a bit later.

The surgery, however, was excellent and my left eye has healed well. Just that at the moment my two eyes are so different—one longsighted, one shortsighted—that my brain can’t cope, so I can only use one or the other, with or without my old glasses, but not both at the same time.

It occurs to me that this must be like being a politician, and explains why they can never get anything in proper perspective.

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