Sunday, 12 July 2009
Me and My Walnut - Crofty's Trip to the Doctor
When I was a nurse, twenty or so years ago, I never found it difficult to remember the shape of the prostate gland - a walnut shaped gland sitting just below the bladder - but its position, snuggly nestled up there out of reach, has only just recently mattered. Being 'just below the bladder' makes it vey awkward for a medical practioner to examine. Actually that's not true; it is remarkably easy for a medical practioner to examine, it is only awkward for the patient.
I have for a while had symptoms that are, shall we say, inconvenient in a man of my age. The symptoms are to do with the frequency one has to pee, and also the speed of response required when one discovers the need to pee. In short - and I use the word carefully - you need to go NOW!
These symptoms are usually reserved for men who are a little older and who don't have to worry about things like meetings or giving presentations; and what's more, these symptoms have been slightly worrying given that one of the causes might be Prostate Cancer.
So I went to the doctor. It took only a simple blood test to determine it wasn't cancer, so on to the expert Mr Sharma - a urological consultant. Anticipating a considerable wait and the usual NHS multi-visit format I contacted the new fangled call centre for my appointment. The young lady apologised that the earliest appointment she could offer was Saturday - this Saturday? I asked, incredulously, astonished not only at the speed but the fact that I wouldn't have to explain any absence from work.
The appointment wasn't in hospital but in a lovely old victorian house, the waiting room was full of men, each glancing at the other wondering which bit of plumbing they were there with. An older man had obviously been asked to bring a specimin, but perhaps had not been told what size of specimin; the jar on his lap looked heavy and full, and looked large enough to hold a couple of litres - he had my admiration.
A short time later my turn came and I was again pleased. I was subjected to a barrage of tests there and then - no wait, nor repeat visit. These included an ultrasound scan (almost a banker for a further appointment weeks ahead) and a peeing test that would have delighted me as a schoolboy (just pee in the funnel Mr C, no, not from there!). After only a half hour I emerged with a diagnosis, a prescription and a renewed faith in the NHS.
During conversation with the excellent Mr Sharma (have you tried making conversation with a guy who has his finger up your...never mind) he explained that this excellent standard of service was arrived at by allowing medical staff to run it. Sounds odd doesn't it? But it seems the sorts of service we are used to - for example the barrage of repeat visits I anticipated over weeks and weeks for tests and such - is designed by people interested in processes rather than patients.
By putting patients at the centre of the thing you get a service that is, hardly surprisingly, good for people.
The worrying thing is that Mr S was eager that I should pass on my feedback to the Oldham PCT, he said it in a way that made me think that the service was possibly at risk. So I shall send a link to this post to them with my blessing.
Oh, before I go, just in case any of you are worrying about the prospect of a future prostate examination - it's not that bad; not something I would personally choose to indulge in as a leisure activity mind, but who am I to judge.