Let me tell you a story, especially that we are fast approaching Christmas and it’s nice to hear also positive things. Right when NHS is facing a crisis.
For all those who don’t know what NHS is, it is an abbreviation for National Health Service which is the main medical care in the UK, reminiscent of my communist past. Yes, this was my impression when I settled in the UK for good. NHS is one of the best medical systems in the world, and those who fight for its future are totally in the right. A system which cares for all citizens of a country, and provides more or less free medical care (even if those who work do contribute to paying into it) is something that the UK should try to keep.
My first encounter with the marvels of NHS happened 9 years ago when I entered this country in the most spectacular fashion. I travelled from Brussels to Birmingham on the plane in full blown psychosis, because my parents, in a rare glimpse of clarity, decided to try a new country for my treatment, especially that my mum lived already in the UK and didn’t want to be stuck in Brussels if I ended up in the hospital there.
I was angry with her for a while about that decision because I love Belgium with all my heart and know for sure that choices of food would be much better, even in the hospital, and I had also private insurance for the occasion.
But now, after all these years, and with newly acquired wisdom, I am thankful that she decided to bring me here, because after spending time in the local hospital, I realised that being a psychiatric patient isn’t that bad, that the UK is a great country and that I loved Sheffield. If not for that hospital I wouldn’t probably try my chances and apply for a PhD bursary here, which I won and somehow stayed much longer.
But so, the hospital. At that time, 9 years ago, NHS was in a much more relaxed form. Things have changed radically since then and not for the best, but I still recognise the goodness when I visit other patients or go and see my GP. And when I say ‘relaxed’, I mean it. Nurses were extremely nice, and staff working in the kitchen was over-helpful. I could order a salad for lunch if I wanted (patients stuck in the hospital now, take note, you can order a salad!), and also escape the premises much easier than in other hospitals, such as back in the Netherlands, where everything was locked, and it took me 2 weeks to come up with a strategy about how to escape the hospital. Not here. Staff members simply forgot to lock the doors, and me and another patient just walked out. She took a train to Manchester and was found there only a week later, as to me, I went to the nearest pub and got drunk. One thing they really struggle with, in the domain of psychiatry, is that they ban alcohol from the hospital’s premises, a strategy, I believe, which isn’t right. What is wrong with having a glass of wine while being in the hospital? Mhh?
It didn’t take them that long to find me, especially that they even sent helicopters to locate me, and when I was brought back, no one put me into isolation room or tried to drug me, as was the case back in the Netherlands. No, if anything, they announced on my arrival that I could have a nicer room with en-suite and helped me to move my stuff from another, much less cheerful room.
And so, right before Christmas, I would like to thank all the staff at NHS which helped me on my journey. You are all very kind and patient, Merry Christmas to you all!
(picture taken from NHS Million campaign)