Fringe Box



Former Mayor Praises Local and National Health Services

Published on: 23 Jul, 2014
Updated on: 23 Jul, 2014
Gordon Bridger, former councillor, former mayor of Guildford and now an Hon Alderman.

Gordon Bridger, former councillor, former mayor of Guildford and now an Hon Alderman.

A former Guildford Mayor, Gordon Bridger, has written in praise of the National Health Service (NHS) both locally at the Royal Surrey County Hospital (RSCH) and nationally.

In a personal account he said: “One would be entitled to believe, if one reads only the tabloid press, that the NHS was managed and staffed by sadists and incompetents whose main concern is to meet centrally determined targets at patient expense.

“Eight years ago I was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer, one of the most serious cancers, with only a 25 per cent survival rate. I was operated on immediately at the RSCH. The procedure is one of the most demanding on surgical skills and took took nine hours. Fortunately for me, it was successful and after some seven days of care I was released from hospital.

“At no time before or since did I experience any pain. It is noteworthy that the consultant who operated on me was Malaysian Chinese, his registrar Maltese and maybe half of the rest of staff were immigrants.

“Apart from this major operation I have had eight minor operations for skin cancer at our local hospital and it occurred to me that the least I could do to repay  them  was to do volunteer  work at the hospital so for over a year I participated in a survey, once a week, which asked patients  22 questions about their treatment.

An admitted sceptic regarding statistics, Mr Bridger read later, with some initial disbelief, that in regular internal surveys conducted by the RSCH, responses to  questions about how kind and efficient nurses and staff have been are between 95 to 100 per cent positive.

More significant, he felt, were responses to the question on the likelihood of respondents recommending the RSCH to others. There were five alternatives varying from “Extremely Likely” to “Extremely Unlikely” and Mr Bridger believes that over 95 per cent answered that they would be “Extremely Likely” to recommend services at the Royal Surrey County Hospital.

He continued: “I am fully aware that, although the survey was anonymous, patients asked questions in this way may wish to please the questioner but I can assure  you the genuine satisfaction of so many patients was quite moving.

“Unfortunately this high satisfaction rating is not widely known, indeed even front line care staff at the RSCH that I have spoken to were normally unaware of the results and were thrilled to hear of them. When I came across the chief cleaner and told her what I was doing and that I had not had a single complaint about unclean wards she was quite excited as she did not even know that surveys of this sort were carried out.

“Of course, things do go wrong and, ironically, my wife who fell and broke her hip on a Thursday evening was  not operated on till Sunday night, despite being in great pain. An example of the traditional “week-end problem” perhaps.

“Inevitably some mistakes are made and the harrowing stories we hear of hospitals elsewhere are appalling. If there is one common feature which explains this it is, I believe, the policy of centrally determined targets which encourages staff to neglect patients in order to satisfy politically inspired objectives.”

In a survey carried out by a respectable US Charitable trust (The Independent American Commonwealth Fund) of health services in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, France, Germany, Holland, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden Switzerland and the USA Britain’s National Health Service was rated the best.

The NHS was also rated first in 9 of the 11 assessment categories and second in “Equity”, third in “Efficiency” but only tenth in one stand out category result, “Healthy Living”.  Perhaps even more surprising, with expenditure at  £2,002 per capita, it was found to be the most cost efficient. The most expensive was that of the USA at £5,004 per capita. The USA was also rated as the country with the worst health service.

Despite the good news Mr Bridger concluded with a warning: “With an ageing population in the UK costs are going to increase; everyone wants someone else to pay for the “free service”. And we still need to solve the “week-end” problem.”

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