“No healthcare without self-care” – My experience of using the NHS by Sarah Hampton, Doctors in Distress Ambassador

I am a regular user of healthcare services: I have had Type 1 diabetes for over 50 years; I have two children both born in a hospital; and I have had surgery for peritonitis (1972) and a hip replacement (2018).

In my experience the burn-out of staff in the NHS has deep roots. These are a few examples of the dedicated exhaustion I have observed.

In 1982 I was the last patient to be seen at a diabetic clinic. The clinic was very busy and I waited five hours to see the doctor. He was white with tiredness, hardly able to rise from his chair to greet me. I refused to discuss my diabetes and suggested it was time for him to go home. In 1997 a midwife sat by me all night when I lost a baby and did not leave in the morning until she knew I was being cared for by someone else. In 2000, when I was again on a maternity ward, the same junior doctor saw me at 7pm one evening and then again at 7am the next day, having been on call all night.

And recently, in 2021, I went for a blood test at my GP practice. I asked the phlebotomist how things were during the stress of the Covid pandemic. It was a casual question, but her eyes filled with tears and she talked about the experience of working on the hospital wards watching people die, whilst trying to manage the fear of dying herself. In 2022 I requested a transfer from my GP practice to the specialist hospital team for my diabetes care; specialist staff have a better understanding of the new technology now available for the management of Type 1 diabetes. During an appointment to talk about this, my GP expressed concern that he had failed me. We agreed that he could not have failed me. GPs mainly see people with Type 2 diabetes and do not have the time to spend discussing diet, blood test results, new insulins, pumps and glucose monitors in the detail I need. We parted amicably but I was very concerned about the pressure he was under.

The quality of my life depends not just on medication but also on support from NHS staff. We expect them to be there when we need them and I am increasingly uneasy about the future of the NHS if we do not care for the people who care for us.

Sarah Hampton, Doctors in Distress Ambassador

December 2022

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