truly excellent experience
posted: Saturday June 20, 2009
It's a real pleasure to sit down and write a short
piece highlighting one of those occasions when the NHS gets it right.
As a chronic asthmatic, but thankfully not often
subject to acute episodes, I have always worked closely with my
GP to keep my asthma under control. Over many years we have now
got to the stage where I am able largely to self-medicate. I have
an excellent feeling for the state of my breathing and try to keep
my cocktail of medications as low as possible. Normally I manage
to do this fairly well.
Unfortunately, on odd occasions I do get caught
out by a bad cold or other respiratory infection and can lose control
of my asthma. When this happens I see my GP who will normally prescribe
a course of systemic steroids and, if the infection is really causing
me problems, an antibiotic to clear it up.
A couple of days ago I fell foul of a nasty summer
cold/sore throat bug that hit hard. Within 24 hours I could feel
my asthma was starting to get out of control.
I went straight to stage one of our strategy,
doubling on the steroid puffer and being a bit more generous with
the ventolin - to no avail. Next came the bigger guns, the emergency
course of systemic steroids. I always keep a course in the house
but hate to use them - but this felt bad and I knew they were needed.
24 hours later things were even worse and I was
coughing up a lot of nasty gunk and had other symptoms that almost
certainly indicated a severe (for me anyway) chest infection. Antibiotics
were clearly called for but I had none and by now it was Saturday
and the surgery was closed. Waiting until Monday was not an option,
nor was trip to A&E because I was coughing too badly to drive
Here in rural North Devon we have an excellent
out-of-hours GP service called TarkaDoc. I phoned and they replied
after a single ring. It took about a minute to take my details (name,
DOB, postcode, symptoms) and identify me and they promised to get
a doctor to ring back within the hour. Fifteen minutes later the
phone rang. The doctor asked about my symptoms and history and wanted
to know if I was coughing up any blood (no). He asked me which antibiotic
I normally used, confirmed it was a good option, gave instructions
to take a double first dose, and said my local pharmacy would have
the prescription faxed to them within half an hour.
Thirty-five minutes later my wife plonked the
antibiotics in my hand.
If you are waiting gleefully for an 'out of left
field' negative comment here I am going to disappoint you. The whole
episode was a textbook example of joined-up healthcare. Everyone
involved was efficient and polite (often mutually exclusive
skills). Asthma aside, it was a real pleasure to deal with this
Credit where credit is due - thanks guys.