I can't sleep, so I am writing. The cold that turned me into a Zombie Professor (see here) has somewhat predictably moved to my chest and I now have a hacking cough. Whilst I'm suffering, it does provide W with an opportunity to practice the Black Art of dispensing over the counter medicine. Like many other people W has great faith in those medicines we can buy without prescription. It's paracetamol for headaches; Buttercup syrup for coughs and Sudocrem for everything else. For children, the cure all is Capol (in my day it was Phenergan – absolutely not recommended these days). W is not alone in having faith in these preparations. In 2013, the UK public brought some 942 million items of over the counter medicines to treat themselves, and in 2014, these purchases created a £2.5 billion market.
The highest value products were pain relief (£581 million), cough medicine (£452 million) and skin treatments (£435 million). Medical evidence suggest that none of these medicines actually do much good and they certainly won’t cure any of the common illnesses at all. Such illnesses (cough and colds) account for some 57 million GP consultations a year. However with colds lasting on average 10 days and coughs up to 18 days, making most of feel miserable it is not surprising that many of us look for some kind of relief. W, (who worked as NHS manager for most of her working life) might have it right from an economic perspective. Whilst it might cost us £3-4 to self-care it costs about £32 for each visit to our GPs surgery and it costs £111 for every person who steps into A&E seeking help.
That is of course unless you live in Chorley. Up until recently, Chorley did have their own A&E department. Not any more. The CEO of Lancashire Teaching NHS FT, Karen Partington has downgraded the A&E department at Chorley. Claiming that they couldn’t recruit enough appropriately trained doctors she felt it was the right, (and in NHS CEO, Simon Steven's view), a brave decision to take. For those needing the services of A&E they are now having to travel to other centres. Putting real pressure on these services. Whilst claiming the downgrading is temporary, it’s not hard to imagine why Karen might want the decision to be a permanent one. In 2015/16 year only 8 NHS FT hit the 95% A&E target, and only one of these was in the North West – and it wasn’t Lancashire Teaching – but many congratulations to Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS FT, who were in the top 8!
Of course you might expect me to be great believer in self-help approaches to maintaining good health and wellbeing, and I am. There are of course times when we can’t help ourselves, when what we face is beyond our ability to cope. When I undertook my nurse education and training I quickly grew to understand the fine line between being there for someone to help them when they were unable to help themselves, and yet work towards helping people to help themselves. Throughout my practitioner and managerial experience it’s been a real privilege to be able to stand beside others and be there for them when needed.
So it was brilliant to read of Henry Heimlich’s experience last week. During my nurse training one of the things we were taught was the Heimlich Manoeuvre – something that when used appropriately can save someone from choking to death. In the UK some 200 people a year die from choking on food they are eating. Well Henry, now aged 96 and living in a residential setting, saved the life of a Patty Ris (aged 87) who started choking on a piece of hamburger. Henry applied his manoeuver and rescued the situation. Amazingly, it was the first time he had ever used the intervention he was most famous for!
Later on this morning my eldest daughter and husband Stewart will be arriving here at the House in Scotland for a week’s holiday. The twins will be 3 tomorrow and along with their older sister, Evie, we are looking forward to celebrating big time. If, heaven forbid, any of the children go down with an ailment, I can rest assured that W will have a remedy in the depths of her black bag….