Boredom in hospital

In case you haven’t realised it yet, your time in hospital will be split as follows.   1% Treatment.   99% Waiting for Treatment.

If you are very seriously ill then the 99% will pass in a blur and it won’t matter.  But for most of us, while being in hospital can be depressing, painful, stressful, and so on,  the worst thing about it is the tedium.  If your ailments don’t get you, then there is a real possibility you could actually end up being bored to death.

You might think ‘Ah well.  I can use the time to do something worthwhile.  Write a book.  Learn how to crochet.  Become fluent in Mandarin.’  Forget it.  You simply don’t have the brainpower because of all the depression, pain and stress in the last paragraph.    Even reading something really simple can just feel like too much effort.

You know you’re in the grips of tediumitis when you start taking an unhealthy interest in the slightest movement in the ward.  When you find yourself putting down Take a Break magazine to watch someone empty the bin,  you need help.

So in the fine tradition of blogging lists,  here is my list of  five ways to keep yourself occupied on the ward without putting too much effort into it.

  1. Listen in to other people’s conversations. It’s unavoidable, so for the only time in your life , completely guilt-free.  Be as nosey as you like.   People have really  in-depth, interesting discussions in hospital, ranging from   ‘What’s wrong with my bowels?’ to whispered ‘ What ARE we going to do with Grandma when she gets out?’   If the curtains are drawn around the bed,  strain your ears as much as you like.  If they are open,  try to show a little discretion. I once had a family of six who were visiting the next bed, actually turn their chairs round so they could hear better what my doctor was saying.
  2. Hospital Bingo. You can make up your own list of phrases to tick off of course but here are a few to start you off. Have you got good veins? (Normally said by a nervous nurse with a needle.) Are my pills ready to take home? (Normally said at 7pm by a patient who was told he could go home at 10am.). Here’s your toast and it’s warm.  (Never comes up).
  3. Read your hospital notes. If they’ll let you. If  you manage to get past the ridiculous hospital procedures about whether you can or not, (another blog post pending), then reading your notes is extremely interesting.  Not only do you find out what you’ve got (which is often difficult to get out of the doctors themselves), you also sometimes find out what they actually think of you in their letters to each other.  I once read one which started ‘Thank you for referring this extremely pleasant lady to me.’ Really?  Of course if you’re a cantankous old moaner then you might not like what you read.  But then you could always write a few complaint letters.  That would use up a bit of time.
  4. Work out who is the most irritating patient on the ward. Points for snoring, whinging, not using their headphones for the TV, telling you over and over again about the intricacies of their illness, being unfortunate enough to be hooked up to a constantly beeping machine ( not their fault but hey), taking an hour in the shower,  having more pillows than you, and generally just staring at you across the ward alot.  Playing the game won’t make them less irritating ..but at least in conducting a scientific study, you can tell your visitors emphatically ‘The most irritating person on here is that woman over there.’
  5. Finally if all those fail, there’s one more thing to try to avoid boredom in hospital. Next time the nurse comes round, try playing dead.  That should liven things up.

The Manchester Health service

Of course she’s been posturing under the wrong name for years.  The NHS.  National Health Service. With her separate clinical commissioning groups, her postcode lotteries,  her different ways of doing simple tasks between one hospital and another.  I always thought she should be called the ANHS. The Almost  National Health service.

And now it appears she may need another name again.   Or part of her does.    The MHS.  The Manchester Health Service.  A bigger split, more formal, making the care you receive from the NHS dependent even more on where you live,  rather than what you need.

There are lots of laudable reasons for the plan.  I’m in no doubt that better links between social services  and the NHS are long overdue.   There is a common conversation on wards between staff,  elderly patients and their families.  As you try not to listen through thin green curtains, you overhear again and again the problems of finding somewhere for Grandma to live because she’s now too frail to go home.

Better cohesion between the two services could really help in managing long term conditions like dementia and heart disease too.  No wonder George Osborne finds this ‘really exciting’.    Local people having more control over the decisions that affect their lives.  Or would that be local politicians George?

I’m uneasy.   Us patients know that we already have to endure problems in our health care because of  a lack of cohesion between different parts of the NHS.    We know if we go to one hospital rather than another, we’ll get a different level of care, different systems, different food.  Our doctors rely on snailmail to pass on vital information about us from one part of the NHS to another.  Experienced  nurses on our wards tell us they can’t give us our pills because they haven’t been through the training for that particular hospital trust.   We’re promised joined up services in Manchester.  Shouldn’t we be working on joining up the NHS in the UK first?

And there’s another problem.  What about those of us – and we are many – who have to travel to the Big Smoke because our treatment and care is too complicated for the hospitals and doctors where we live?   Will we be as welcome?  As budgets inevitably tighten, will our right to expensive treatments be discussed in the light of whether we pay council tax in Manchester?   Will the ‘local people’  making  these decisions be happy to open their doors to costly patients across the country when  their electorate are baying for them to improve local care?  I can see the election slogan now.  Manchester Services for Manchester people.

I have family in Wales.  A few years ago they were all trumpeting their free prescriptions.  Now they wonder whether it was worth it.  They complain of long waits for hospital appointments and inefficient care.  They try to arrange treatment across the border.  They’re not so sure local power to local people as far as the NHS is concerned is working for them.

I am not against a Northern Powerhouse but this plan concerns me, not least because of the speed in which it is being introduced.  In just over a year, full devolution of health and care services in Manchester will be in place, and yet all parties seem to agree the details of how this will work are still very sketchy.

And to cap it all, just a year later, Manchester people will be voting for a new mayor.    A chance for some bright politician to make radical plans for that £6billion health and social care budget.  Perhaps even to come up with a smart new name for the service.   I like the old one.  The National Health Service.