Monday, 20 October 2014

NHS Wales: Problems either side of the divide

So a certain paper has in their eternal wisdom decided to do a week long “investigation” into lets bash NHS Wales for a laugh.

In my honest opinion I can’t see that this is going to be anything more than cheap political point scoring & an attempt to imply that similar issues can’t be seen within NHS England.

This however isn’t to say that there aren’t issues within the Welsh NHS system, I live through these issues & use many different services. Just one issue is not being able to rely on appointments & procedures to be scheduled when they should be & having to constantly chase things up which adds additional stress that could be avoided. And this is just one of the problems I have encountered & myself & my partner will be contacting those who need to know further to try & address these failings.

However, throughout the whole of the NHS there are failings but there are also services that are under the most intense strain in modern times, are struggling to provide the best for their patients & often succeed by relying most often on the dedication of the staff in those departments. So often we condem a whole hospital or a whole system on the parts that are failing instead of acknowledging the good parts & correcting the failings. In so doing we will only manage to further alienate staff that are doing a great job, in difficult circumstances, that the NHS desperately needs to keep hold of.

I also can not see nor believe that the failings within NHS Wales would be fixed by wasting billions in top down reorganisation which even senior tory party heads have agreed was a bad decision. There is also no mention about the continued underfunding to the Welsh Assembly, the difference in demographic, geography or that patients have been sent across the border for specialist treatment for years & NHS Wales funds them.

Usually NHS Wales patients have been sent across the border because of the intensive resources needed for a specialist centre would have made it a much more expensive option for a centre to run in Wales. For example if a minority need the specialist service it can be more viable to share facilities. However there are cases where a specialist centre has been put off when a need has been identified.

This isn’t however just seen in Wales. Specialist centers are highly resource intensive so centres can often serve people from outside the hospital’s trust with patients having to travel to other trusts for specialist treatment.

The simple fact is that parties are using the NHS for political point scoring as they have done for many years. That by looking at reports from the Welsh Assembly & other media coverage, the Data actually says Wales fared better than the English NHS system whereas other data contradicts this. So often data can be taken out of context or isn’t extensive.

In my honest opinion the only reason that the NHS Wales system has been attacked is because the Welsh Assembly has a minority Labour government & Westminster wants to "prove" that the Welsh NHS system has fared worse than the English. By bashing Wales it only stands to harm England as well as it attempts to brush over the major failings in NHS England.

 Inherently the Welsh & English systems face different challenges. Both systems have issues & political point scoring is damaging & serves nothing more than to detract from real productive changes being made within the NHS. Its time that parties took a step back, looked for a longer term strategy for the NHS & that patients where the core focus. At the end of the day patients deal with the problems & use the service. These patients know what they truly need, what is wasteful & what works. I also urge MPs & AMs not to pander to the papers or create spin because this isn’t going to help your constituents. Instead talk to people in your constituencies that use these services & understand what needs to be put right in each hospital.

When a AM is turning to Google to get information & opinion about the NHS in Wales instead of talking to the patients that use the system, there is something fundamentally wrong.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

World Arthritis Day: Arthritis & the extras.

So this is my second time writing a post for World Arthritis Day, an event that I never knew that I would be writing about, as many others would have never have thought they would do either & my first blog post can be found here.

However, this year I thought I would focus on the often missed “extras” as many often see arthritis as just a disease that you have in your pension years that gives you “Creaky Bones”. When in a matter of fact that is only the headliner, the “star attraction” & there are many added extras that come with it & that these “extras” can vary from type of arthritis, down to the individual, with people experiencing the same disease quite differently.

For myself personally, I have Psoriatic Arthritis (along with other conditions) so I will be referencing my experiences & my specific type of arthritis.

As well as inflammation affecting the joints, there can be inflammation affecting the ligaments, cartilage, other tissues & even an individuals organs. I often have inflammation affecting the muscles & cartilage in between my ribs & have had many bouts of tendonitis (inflammation around the tendons). I’ve also have had bursitis which is inflammation of the synovial fluid in the joint, none of which did I know could happen when I was first diagnosed.

Also a major factor is fatigue & this occurs due to elevated levels of inflammation in the body.

The best way to describe it to someone who doesn’t have the disease is to think of the worse bug you have ever had & how exhausted you felt. You were exhausted because your immune system is going into overdrive fighting the bug (so obviously hence why you're tired) & when someone has psoriatic arthritis, their immune system is overacting but with no infection present.

People don’t know exactly why the immune system is overactive, the general consensus is that it’s likely caused by a genetic fault &/or triggered by an infection.

Because my immune system is overactive, I have to take a drug called Humira which is an anti-TNF to suppress my body's immune response, thus lessening the inflammation. For some people they find that it halts the active inflammation & for others a level of inflammation remains which seems to be what has happened in my case.

I take my Humira with the use of a subcutaneous injection (didn’t think i’d be doing that) & as a result of the medication it means that i am immune compromised, didn’t think that would happen either. Obviously, when you're immune suppressed you're more susceptible to infections & this unlocks a whole new level of possible sucky extras. There is some suggestion that people with arthritis may experience added dental problems & for me this has certainly been the case where I had some dental work completed & all seem successful.

However, it is believed that a small gap had remained & due to my immune compromised state, a cyst formed which later became infected. Due to the infection I had to come off my arthritis medication in order to not compromise my immune system further. However this meant my arthritis was uncontrolled for 6 months whilst my dental cyst was diagnosed, treated & I recovered. As a result of being off my medication for that period I now experience pins & needles in my feet & legs which they think has happened because of damage caused from high levels of inflammation in my system. I am currently awaiting nerve tests to confirm the cause & extent of the damage.

This only briefly highlights some of the issues that I have experienced, one individual with one type of arthritis & is by no means the complete story. Many won’t experience what I have, they may experience different symptoms depending on the type of arthritis but I am writing this to highlight that arthritis isn’t as simple as just “Creeky Bones” & is still greatly misunderstood by the general public.

It’s not surprising when there are between 100 & 200 different types of musculoskeletal conditions depending on reference cited & many people still view it as a disease of that you get in your elder years. People still don't understand the great impact arthritis has on someone’s health & they often miss how complex a disease arthritis is & that although you may not see an effect outwardly, it can have a deep effect on the individual.

The public needs to be made more aware of the complex nature of arthritis so that to better understand some of the difficulties someone with arthritis may face. To also understand that there needs to be more research conducted & that arthritis research still receives markedly less in funds than other conditions. There also needs to be a more inclusive nature in the campaigns that arthritis charities conduct, as too often they focus solely on older people with disease & when charities do focus their campaigns, they are often at children & teenagers, often missing those in between. This will help to change peoples’ perceptions towards those that are not elderly & have arthritis & may also help with some of the hostility that often these people may face.

Finally if there is anyone reading this that has been newly diagnosed with arthritis, don’t freak out. I know that is harder said than done but arthritis is really very unique to each individual & often people don’t experience the complications I have. However, I have no doubt that it won’t be as you expect & my best advice is don’t panic, don’t think you’ll get everything & become as informed as you can.