Thank you NHS Scotland

The NHS in Scotland is a political football, scarcely a week goes by without Douglas Ross or Anas Sarwar mounting an opportunistic attack upon NHS Scotland even though the NHS services in England and Wales, which are run by the Conservatives and by Labour respectively, consistently performing more poorly than NHS Scotland. This week in England junior doctors are taking unprecedented strike action leading to the NHS Confederation warn that up to 250,000 medical appointments and operations could be postponed. The four days of strikes are due to begin on Tuesday after the end of the Easter bank holiday.

The British Medical Association, which represents doctors and medical students, has said the strikes could still be avoided if the Conservative government makes a credible pay offer, something it has refused to do, claiming that there is not enough money, although the Tories managed to find the money in Jeremy Hunt’s recent budget to give a lucrative tax break to the richest pensioners. The Tory health minister Steve Barclay, is refusing to meet with the BMA until the strikes are called off. Dr Mike Greenhalgh, a deputy chair of the BMA’s junior doctors committee, told BBC One’s Breakfast: “It’s hard to negotiate when only one side is doing it and we’re not getting anything back from the government.”

Scotland is not affected by this week’s junior doctors’ strike,and although junior doctors in Scotland are currently balloting on strike action, relations between the Scottish Government and the BMA have not broken down to the extent that they have broken down in England, so it is still possible that strike action in Scotland will be averted.

With so much bad news about the NHS dominating the headlines you could be forgiven for thinking it’s all doom and gloom. As regular readers of this blog might be aware, my mum, Martha Mosson was recently diagnosed with a cancerous lesion in her left eye, which required surgery to remove the affected eye. Although she is still recovering from her operation, feeling weak and nauseous from the pain killing medication she is on, and is coming to terms with the fact that she has just had a major operation and now only has one eye, she insisted that I write this piece. And of course you can’t say no to yer maw. My mum is 83 and although she has been dogged by health issues, the woman is a force of nature. So this piece is far more important than anything else that might be happening right now. It’s for my mum.

My mum has two reasons for wanting this to be published, the first is because she wants to thank all the NHS staff involved with her care, who at all times treated her with the utmost professionalism, care, and compassion and ensured that she received all the necessary procedures and interventions promptly and without undue delay but also because she wants to reassure anyone else who has the misfortune to receive a similar diagnosis that they too can be sure that they will receive the similar high standard of care that she did. Even now, just days after a major life altering operation, she’s thinking of others.

Getting that reassurance is vital because receiving a diagnosis of cancer is terrifying, both for the patient and for their loved ones. The last thing that’s needed is to have to worry about whether the NHS is going to give you the proper care and treatment that you need, in sufficient time to ensure that the cancer can be treated successfully. So my mum wants people to know that if her experience is anything to go by, they will. She added, and was most insistent that I put this line in : “That Douglas Ross is an arse.” This comes directly from the mouth of an 83 year old retired deputy headmistress of a Catholic primary school.

My mum’s cancer was discovered when she was admitted to hospital for an unrelated condition. She has suffered from recurrent debilitating bouts of severe dizziness for some time and additionally is being treated for macular degeneration. In February she experienced an especially bad bout of dizziness which badly affected her balance and left her very nauseous and she was admitted to the Royal Infirmary in Glasgow. There it was discovered that the dizzy spells were due to Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo, which is caused by tiny crystals of calcium carbonate crystals becoming dislodged and entering one of the canals in the inner ear. A simple procedure was able to treat this successfully and she has had no further problems with it.

However when on the ward the eye specialist treating her macular degeneration wanted her to have a scan of her eyes in order to ensure that visual problems were not contributing to her dizziness and nausea. The scan revealed a lesion at the back of her left eye which required further investigation. To cut a long story short, the surgical team soon determined that it was a malignant tumour. Unfortunately as the lesion was situated right next to the optic nerve it was not possible to treat it with laser, which could have saved the eye. The only possible treatment was to remove it surgically, which necessitated the removal of the entire eye. Her main concern was whether she would still be able to drive, and was greatly relieved to learn that she can. Only six weeks elapsed between the discovery of the cancerous lesion and the operation to remove it, a timescale which is not at all atypical in NHS Scotland, despite the hysterical scaremongering of the likes of Douglas Ross, whose party presides over the meltdown we currently see in the NHS in England.

For a while we were not sure if the surgeon would have to remove part of the eye socket as well as the eye itself, which would have been even more disfiguring. Thankfully that has proven not to be necessary. The operation took place a week ago and my mum is now home. There was the possibility that during the operation to remove the affected eye the surgeon could insert a prosthetic eye and attach it to the existing muscle. This prosthetic eye would have moved naturally along with my mum’s remaining eye, but unfortunately some muscle tissue had to be removed so this was not possible. The operation was carried out last week at Gartnavel hospital in Glasgow. The surgeon is confident that they caught the cancer early and removed it before it spread. My mum wants to thank all the staff on ward 1C for their care and attention.

My mum has been told that when the wound heals she will be fitted with a glass eye which will match her good eye, so the aesthetic impact of the operation will be limited. In the meantime she will have to wear an eye patch, much to the delight of her four year old great-grandson, who thinks his great-granny is a pirate now.

My mum is still very tender and sore, she’s not as young as she used to be and recovering from this operation is going to take time, but thanks to the prompt intervention of NHS Scotland, time is what she has, and she will be with us for a good few years yet. Sadly she is not recovering as quickly as she’d have liked and is suffering from dreadful nausea, severe headaches and an upset stomach, although she’s putting the same brave face on things that she has always done. She’s never tolerated general anaesthetics well and it’s going to take some time for it to clear out of her system. She is still very poorly, and all the family are worried about her, but she is a determined and stubborn woman who has set her mind on getting back to normal and living life to the full. If anyone can do it, she can. Thank you NHS Scotland, for ensuring my mum will still be around.


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