My initial experience of the NHS when I broke my collar bone was good – I was seen within 45 minutes, dealt with promptly and by very courteous people at what appeared to be a very modern facility at Norwich. They wanted to keep me in and operate as soon as they got the chance – which might be Saturday, Monday, Tuesday or any day thereafter. At this point we agreed that I could be released to go home and get operated on more locally.
My mistake was instead of accepting the sling and the drugs and making my way to the nearest phone to contact BUPA, I let the NHS do my operation and my aftercare.
It started with conflicting advice about whether to plate the injury or not – I had to argue to get it operated on, I have subsequently been told by anyone who knows about these things that leaving it to heal would have been a bad idea in my case. The wound after the operation was a bit of a mess and became infected, it ended up with a fair bit of scar tissue and a lot of bruising. I was told to immobilise the arm and wear a sling for 6 weeks – which results in nothing other than muscle wastage in the arm. My 6-weekly review sessions took 2-3 hours of queuing in fairly awful surroundings for a 5 minute consultation with a different person every time. The advice was always ‘do nothing’ – stop riding bikes indefinitely, do nothing that could present any risk of landing on my shoulder, come back in another 6 weeks. After 13 weeks it was confirmed to me that the operation had been a failure, when I asked what we do now I was told to wait another 8 weeks and then have a scan, decide from there, don’t go near a bike for at least another 4-6 months. So that would be 21 weeks before a decision would be made on how to get my arm to heal – then I would have to wait for an operation date…
At this point I contacted BUPA who sent me to a shoulder specialist within 5 days. His first comment was “Let’s get you back on that bike then”. He took a CT scan to complement the x-rays I provided and immediately recommended the procedure be redone in its entirety, removing the work done previously and replacing with his own, potentially including a bone graft. I checked in to what could have been a 4 star hotel room and enjoyed the TV and wi-fi until I was given 30 mins notice of my op. Gown on, downstairs, knocked out within 10 minutes.
It turns out the bone graft was not needed – he was able to work with the good bone that was there, ‘mash it up’ (his words) and he is confident of a very good outcome. Aftercare was superb during my overnight stay, no limits to visiting hours (although Heidi’s visit involved me trying to keep my eyes open and failing spectacularly), the nicest people looking out for you – it genuinely was as good an experience as I could have hoped for and the breakfast was incredible. I was told I could get rid of the sling the day after the op, which I did and was advised to keep the arm as mobile as possible.
The wound is now much better than before the op – the Dr has pulled the scar tissue from the first op inside the wound, used internal dissolving stitches and glue. I have virtually no bruising and the scar is so much less noticeable already. Prognosis is I should be able to ride a motorbike in 6 weeks. I was slightly concerned that there was a bit of bleeding over the weekend, so I called the hospital on Monday morning. They invited me to pop back in, they were waiting for me on arrival and the Dr’s assistant and a nurse checked and redressed the wound, assuring me it all looked excellent. From phone call to fresh bandage in 30 minutes.
Overall my experience of the NHS was disappointing – and I don’t mean compared to my private care. I understand the resource challenges and the poor facilities, but the lack of efficiency is chronic, the advice was sketchy and conflicted, the attitude of a couple of people I met was pretty disgusting and the end result was a failed attempt to fix a broken bone and 15 wasted weeks.
I now understand why my company funds private health care – to avoid wasted days in waiting rooms and repeat operations months after the first try. I am very thankful to have access to this and I really was quite blown away by how good the Circle Hospital in Reading was. It really was superb and I have no doubt that Mr Brownlow will be showing me x-rays of an intact bone in 6 weeks.