Friday, 13 March 2015

Rog T's Cancer Blog - Part II - Friday the 13th, The day of doom? The NHS crisis bites

This blog is part II of todays Cancer Blog series (read part one here). I urge all Barnet residents who are under treatment for Cancer to read this blog and complete the poll in the sidebar.

I am in a state of shock. Today I discovered something which I cannot quite comprehend. As I mentioned, I had my appointment changed from a face to face meeting to a "telephone consultation" at 11.40 (see scanned letter), so I arranged my day around this.

I planned all of my meetings & business commitments to fit in with this schedule. I had an important work related call at between 10am & 11am. The plan was have a cup of tea and chill until I got the call.

So at 10.40, I was in the middle of a call on my work mobile and the home phone rings. So I pick it up and sure enough it is the Urology department. I quickly had to end the other call. The one rule I have always had is that my health comes first.

As I mentioned, I had recently had an MRI scan and a PSA test that had seen a rise from 4.0 to 5.5. On previous visits to the consultant, he's shown me the scans and drawn diagrams etc to explain the diagnosis. I wasn't happy that this wasn't available as an option. So I started the conversation by asking why the appointment had been changed. The answer shcoked me. I was told that there was a huge backlog of appointments due to a lack of facilities and meeting rooms. To me this was shocking. Cancer patients are being denied the opportunity to have a proper consultation in Barnet. However great a telephone manner, how on earth can you be reassurred if you cannot see the MRI scan results? The person who called was not a member of the team I'd met previously (to my recollection) so how could I even be sure it was a qualified doctor? Now as it happens the person I spoke to seemed knowledgable enough, but as I mentioned earlier, I was seeking a degree of reassurrance.

So what was the news? Well they want me to come in for a full biopsy under general anaesthetic. Apparently this is a different kind of biopsy to the previous one. They take far more core samples and they do not access the Prostate via th anus. Apparently the side effects are pretty similar, but the risk of infection is far less. So not only am I having a telephone consultation, but we are discussing surgery for a potentially life threatening disease on the phone. For me this is disgusting.

This is the situation that the NHS finds itself in as a result of the current Tory lead government. Barnet Hospital trust effectively went bust and has been taken over by The Royal Free. The Royal Free have now put in place a huge cost cutting exercise, to remove face to face appointments and replace them with phonecalls, do discuss surgery with cancer patients. Now if we simply accept this, then what will be next? So I told the person I was speaking to that I wanted him to tell his management that I considered this highly inappropriate. I said that I wanted it recorded that I think that anyone getting results of tests, discussing surgery or anything else which is beyond the level of simply getting routine test results should get a proper face to face consultation.

So on to the results. Well he reassurred me that the biopsy was "just part of the protocol" and not related to the MRI reslt, I asked what the MRI result was. What I heard did not quite make sense. I was told that there was no change from the previous and that the rating was 3. Now previously I was told that the mass was undetectable. As the radiographer marks the scan, how can it be 3 if it's undetectable? As I wasn't there to see, how could I be reassurred.

As to the rising PSA? Well again "Nothing to worry about" as it is within normal limits. He stated that I should only be worried if it doubled. Well the thing is that it has. My first test in 2011 was 2.8. It is now 5.5 which is virtually double. I pointed this out. He said "That was 2011 and it has been stable since. He explained that the Prostate grows and this raises the PSA naturally.

So where am I? Well I have yet another procedure to be performed. I've been told that the MRI is OK and the PSA is OK. And I've also been told that my local hospital has not got enough meeting rooms to let me see my consultant.

When it comes down to it, my health comes first. If the government cannot run a health service where I can get to see my consultant, then we need a different government. I am angry, frustrated and worried about what the future holds for me and the hundreds of other people who are "on the waiting list" and are getting a phone call over the next few weeks. This is not trivial. Please complete the poll in the sidebar. It is anonymous. The more people who complete it, the stronger the message we can send.

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