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The other side of the sheets: part one

The first in a three part series about what happens to a nurse the other side of the sheets.

It took me a long time to find my way to hospital.

I’d been having very occasional shooting abdominal pains for a while, but only a few weeks. I put it down to stress. Work is always very demanding, but on top of that our jobs are at risk - the PCT’s trying to cut costs and there’s Andrew Lansley’s White Paper hanging over us. Suddenly public sector workers are pariahs and no-one seems to care about the dedication and commitment - all that’s mentioned is final salary pensions. When the PCT was formed people gave it four years - we laughed but here we are again, facing another massive, hugely costly reorganisation.

The day before I went on holiday the pains became more persistent, so I visited the nurse practitioner. I’d had a sigmoidoscopy less than a year before which was clear, and reassured by that we agreed it was probably constipation, which was certainly a symptom. I went away armed with boxes of Movicol, which did no good. I rang the surgery; increase the dose.

I realised I was ill when I found myself lying in the hotel bedroom watching daytime TV, with no interest in food, for several days. My partner Nick became increasingly concerned and on the Wednesday I agreed to visit the local GP. She advised increasing the Movicol, up to five sachets a day she suggested, and took bloods - Us & Es, LFT, FBC, all of which were returned normal.

I rang my sister, an A&E nurse. She advised me to go to hospital and laughed when I protested that I could still walk; the week before they’d had a patient who’d trapped her finger on a curling tong she said; I certainly didn’t need to be prostrate.

We left for the midlands on the Friday and I felt a little better - I managed to climb Box Hill on the way and eat a curry that evening, thinking maybe that would do the trick. But no, the next morning I felt worse so finally agreed to go to A & E.

Nick used to work for that PCT - as chair of audit he warned me about the triage system, designed to keep inappropriate patients out of A & E. ‘Don’t look too lively’ he said, ‘and don’t tell them you’ve been like this all week - say it’s just got a lot worse.

‘Go before the football injuries get there, they’ll have cleared out the Friday night drinkers’ said my son, who had arrived for the weekend.

So there I was, dropped at the A & E entrance at 8.30; I felt far from sprightly.

Kate Lloyd is a qualified RGN and Health Visitor, currently employed as a Senior Public Health Nurse.

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