If you are of a queasy nature, I suggest you move on to the next paragraph as I am giving some lurid descriptions. I have previously mentioned that I have had skin cancer on my ear, and that it will be 30 weeks between the time I first reported and the time of my operation. I have now had the operation and what has come out of it is that it should have been attended to long ago. If this had happened, it would not have become infected, my wife would not have had to patch it every night for all those 30 weeks, to avoid staining the pillow, and I would have been saved considerable discomfort in consequence. But the greatest concern turned out to be the amount of ear I lost during the operation. Instead of a short incision and a small amount of flesh cut away, they had to take out a large piece of my ear, shaped like a portion of pie, and the rest of the ear stitched up so the loss was not noticed.
Now the operation is over, I can say that the end result is probably no worse than it might have been anyway, the quality of the work by the surgeon was unbelievably clever and excellent. Strangely, I look back on the experience with interest. I discovered an approach to the work that I would not personally have ever imagined. But this does not excuse the nightly torture and the considerable discomfort, brought about by the delay. I have since discovered that the delay was caused by the fact that the Northern Ireland health service is short of skin grafters, and the surgeon who operated on me was just one of the few.
I mentioned this condition to a doctor and he said that there existed a much more chronic problem which was not being addressed and this was back pain. He said that if a back pain was attended to by physiotherapists within days of it having been discovered, it could be relieved and quite possibly cured, but a protracted delay could cause the condition to become a permanency. This is something to be catered for immediately, as it would probably save money in the long run, and would certainly be beneficial to the patients, overall.
One other matter which did come to light was the stifling effect of the legal profession, its advertising and its insidious influence on the way the health service is run. The day after the operation, the district nurse came to me to carry out the first change of dressing. She was kind, careful, gentle and extremely professional. It took her 10 minutes to clean up and then rewrap the ear. It took a further 10 minutes to fill in three forms; on one she circled a series of items, on another she filled in a series of boxes, and on the third form she wrote what seemed to me to be a small essay. I suggested to her, and to the doctor that I mentioned in the above paragraph, that this was due to the advertisements that encourage people to take legal action on the basis of no return, no fee. She agreed with me, but the doctor enlarged the scope by saying that this was required because of the legal implications when it came to the DHSS audit. We are too short of the quality of nursing that this lady provided, to waste her time as a clerk. It struck me as being totally counter-productive and therefore a waste of money. I know it won’t happen, but I believe we do have to trust somebody, and I prefer to trust the medical profession, than I would trust either civil servants controlling the health service, or these lawyers who to my mind are ambulance chasers. If the proposition’ is taken to the next stage it seemed reasonable, that in order to curtail the activities of the lawyers, we sign a waiver which basically states that we understand the risks we are taking and that we will not under any circumstances go to law as a result, but have the right in unreasonable circumstances, to refer to an arbitration Board set up by the DHSS. A lot of people will say we are giving up our civil rights, but better that on a percentage basis, than the 100% waste of time of valuable skills.