Letter: Scottish NHS better resourced

NHS Highland.

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It may surprise Keith Abendroth, Courier letters last week, to know that my own experience of the NHS is not all that different to that of his wife.

I don’t know why the timescales for his wife’s treatment have been so long and it’s not appropriate that I should know.

Where he and I differ is in the attitudes we have formed towards the NHS and its political management as a result of our differing experiences. Let me tell my own story in order to explain.

Late in 2008 I began to have hearing problems and experienced the onset of mild tinnitus.

I went to my doctor and was referred to the audiology department at Oban hospital, where I was given a device to help me cope with the tinnitus.

However  in the spring of 2009 I had to return to my doctor when my symptoms became more severe.

I was referred to an ear nose and throat specialist and after about three months I was given an appointment.

This led to a referral to a Glasgow hospital for an MRI scan, which took place after another three months, as a result of which I was told after a further threemonths that I had an acoustic neuroma.

In all it took about a year from initially seeing my GP to having a diagnosis confirmed.

Fortunately an acoustic neuroma is a fairly benign form of tumour. It won’t spread, though it can be life-threatening.

As mine was small I was placed on a regime called  ‘Wait and Watch,’ with annual MRI scans and consultations.

After three years the tumour had grown large enough to be of concern, the life-threatening stage and in May of 2013 it was decided that it should be treated, either by fairly major skull-base surgery or by a less invasive process known as ‘gamma knife.’

I opted for the latter and in January 2014, eight months after the decision to proceed, I had my tumour zapped.

About a year from initial referral to diagnosis, and about eight months from the end of the wait and watch process to treatment, not dissimilar to the wait experienced by Mr Abendroth’s wife.

My point is this.  The whole process took much longer than I would have liked and it was impossible not to feel worried and anxious throughout that time.

But at every turn I was given clear information, helpful and reassuring advice, the most caring and considerate support imaginable and, in the end, I achieved a good outcome.

Had I been treated quicker perhaps more of my hearing would have been preserved, but that was not the fault of the clinicians looking after me or of the system.

What I will not do is generalise from my own case and say that the time it took it was somehow the fault of the NHS and the sources provided by the politicians.

There are all sorts of reasons why delays occur and it’s neither valid nor helpful to say that because these happen in individual cases the whole system is in disarray.

What I also know is this, and it’s the only political point I will make, the NHS in Scotland, run from Holyrood, is better resourced, better staffed and better performing than the system south of the border, run by Westminster.

Waiting times for treatment are shorter. The surveyed experience and satisfaction rates of patients and their families is overwhelmingly positive.

That’s not what mismanagement looks like, as Messrs Redman and Abendroth would have us believe.

You only have to look south of the border to see how ludicrous and utterly dishonest is their claim that our Scottish NHS would be better managed by the Tories: chronic underfunding endangering patient care;  staff at breaking point; orthopaedic services contracted out;  wards, A and E departments and entire hospitals being closed down; the near total collapse of nurse recruitment and training; waiting times getting longer and longer.

I know from my own experience how frustrating it can be to have to wait  for hospital treatment, and I know that those who wait often have to contend with pain along with their anxiety.

We should never lose sight of the fact that, in the round, our Scottish NHS is doing much, much better than the NHS elsewhere in these islands, even where there is room for improvement, and for that I, personally, am very grateful, not least because I’m still here to write about it.

William Crossan,