My tribute to Mr Tim O’Brien, one of this country’s leading surgeons, his colleagues and staff at the Urological Centre, Guys and St Thomas’s NHS Trust London and ALL members of the NHS. In sharing my recent experiences here I am NOT seeking sympathy, although I know it is there, but use it to demonstrate how Privatisation of the NHS can only destroy it and Society as well. J T Coombes
Last May I was diagnosed with three cysts on my kidneys. Not unusual as 4 out of 10 people have them but one of mine had burst and another was the size of a small melon, with dark shading.
The senior consultant at my local NHS Trust told me this was out of their league and referred me to Mr O’Brien. At our first meeting he told me the picture was not good as mine were the worst set of scans he had seen in a long time, immediately countering this by then saying “But that is what we do”. This was the first meeting at which the word ‘cancer’ had been used and his words and manner reassured me I was in the best hands.
At the next meeting, following more tests and clearer scans, the atmosphere changed dramatically and the view was I had a better than average chance of staying off a dialysis machine and given my level of fitness, 5 hours of surgery could resolve the problem.
Sadly there were complications and it took 8 hours of surgery to remove the large tumour, leaving a smaller one to be dealt with later. 10 days later I returned home and the operation was judged a success in spite of its complex nature. (Mr O’Brien confided that he had carried out 1100 operations and this was in the top 20 for complexity. He was not boasting and talked with a humble pride and enthusiasm for the work he had carried out.)
It was then that I realised this man, his colleagues and staff are only motivated by a passionate desire to heal people like me. At our second meeting, when he realised we had a chance of success, his excitement at the challenge was obvious from his body language and words.
In my time at Guys I found I had left my world of fighting, through my writing, the neoliberal world of bankers and politicians, whose shallow values are bringing Society to its knees and entered a world of Professionalism, Integrity, Dedication and Care of the highest order.
I came to realise that ‘Privatising’ this work can add NOTHING to what these amazing people do. Indeed the thought that there are people out there who would like to make a profit out of the challenges I and many others face fills me with deep repugnance.
Will profit improve our surgeon’s abilities and work ethic? Will profit make the processes of our healthcare service more efficient? Will privatisation broaden our healthcare service? A service that cares for Society will be impregnated by cold ‘uncaring’ business ethics.
Decisions will be reached by cost considerations not care. Costs to the users will become more expensive to provide the necessary profits, alienating those who really need support because they can’t afford it. Health CARE will become a Health COMPANY seeking profit from the challenges we face.
Just suppose I could only afford a healthcare policy that funded 5 hours of major surgery in anyone year. What would have happened when the surgeon went in and discovered it would take 8 hours? Would the decision be made to simply remove both kidneys and put me on dialysis for the remainder of my life because I had inadequate insurance? Would the 3 staff to 1 patient in the Critical Care Unit I attended directly after surgery be reduced to 1 to save on overheads?
In this seamy world profit will dictate who gets care, who does not and the level of care will be constantly under scrutiny. Nowhere within the values of the Hippocratic Oath is there any mention of profit and people do not enter the profession for this purpose.
It takes 15 years to qualify as a consultant surgeon, making them a special breed of people with dedication and high moral sense and genuine care for their fellow men and women, something our politicians and corporations are now seeking to ‘pimp’ a profit from.
And what happens as the need for profit growth continues? Would the quality of medicines and equipment be compromised for the sake of profit and would surgeons and staff be expected to work longer hours, with the subsequent raising of tiredness levels that could put patients at risk?
I believe that the manner in which Society looks after it’s infirm and those struggling with life is a measure of that Society’s self-esteem. Currently our NHS is a glowing example of just how high that self-esteem is.
The efforts of our politicians to destroy that self-esteem, by callously manipulating budgets to turn that care and compassion into a profit centre, will pull down and eventually destroy our Society. Unregulated Capitalism is eroding the very bedrock of morality inherent in any Society and must be brought back under control by a strong and reinvigorated democracy, something that seems to be birthing now in Greece, Spain, the UK and other countries.
Until the next time
P.S. Latest blood test show the repaired kidney is functioning near normal and so the dialysis machine has been kicked over the cliff! I am getting stronger each day and the need to prepare for more surgery in November means future posts will be erratic until early next year.
. . . But it’s lovely to be back!!