My NHS Story (That’s our free National Health Service for any overseas visitors to this blog)

IImage awaited check in at the Cambridge hospital for scheduled surgery with not a little trepidation. Would I be greeted with kindness and care or would I be met with harsh faces and uncaring nurses? I have to admit that I expected the worst. My last stay in hospital, after the birth of my third child, was  a rather unpleasant experience to say the least, and I checked myself out as soon as possible.

The NHS has had to take a lot of flack and criticism over the last few years, particularly in the area of nursing care. I was most fortunate to discover that this time I was to be placed on a very quiet ward. This meant that the nurses tending to my care were not rushed off their feet; they were very pleasant. The majority of them were not British – and it really didn’t matter. One was Romanian, one a Pilipino, one half German. They welcomed me as if I were their own flesh and blood. They smiled at me.

I wanted to hug one of the nurses when in the middle of the night I was feeling nauseous and hot, and she rushed over to me with a portable fan and pointed it in my direction. I was full of genuine thanks when another nurse earlier cleaned up my sick that splashed all over the floor. I kept apologising – that’s really not a nice job to do – and would have offered to help clean it up myself, were I not so weak.

They kept saying “It’s ok, don’t worry about it”- but I was thankful, I was so grateful for this act of kindness. You can’t legislate for kindness. You can train nurses to write essays, to be fluent in medical mumbo-jumbo speak, to follow procedure and tick every bureaucratic checklist, but you can’t really train for a natural, inherent kindness; it is for this that I am truly grateful.

They didn’t treat me as if I were a nuisance or begrudge me care for being ill. They were tender and sweet and understanding; this is priceless.

My twenty-four hours of care could have been twenty-four hours of hell – we’ve all heard the horrific stories, including the recent one of the young man who was dying of thirst on a ward and called in emergency services to alert them of his plight. (

Instead my faith was restored in the humanity of professional nurses who gave their best. They smiled, they were friendly, they asked if I was alright, they asked if I needed anything.  There were no complaints when I spilt a near full cup of tea all over me and the bed whilst in a state of drug induced delirium; they just got on with their job with a good attitude. Admittedly this was because the ward was quiet; had the five beds been full, I’m sure the situation would have been quite different.

But it renewed my hope, and made me see that, given the time and space and opportunity to care, some nurses will willingly run to fulfil their duty. I hope this may be said of other hospitals up and down the country.

I can only have good things to say about my time at Addenbrooke’s hospital, despite the gruelling nature of the actual keyhole surgery and the horrific painful after effects. The nurses I met did their utmost to ensure that my stay was as comfortable as possible. Thank you. And to the government: please let nurses return to their job of caring and being kind. Free them up of endless paperwork and bureaucracy. Allow them to fulfil their natural mandate to look after people, to show compassion, to be kind. For this is ultimately all that we really want from the NHS. (Along with a clean bed and bathroom)

I am thankful that my foreign nurses all spoke good English. I do believe that if we employ those from other countries that they should be fluent in English to minimize confusion and avoid anguish of the patient. I experienced no such anguish. They attended to my needs magnificently.

When you’re in great pain and distress, it’s wonderful to be surrounded by those who will look to your needs and try to help you as best they can when you are in such a weak and vulnerable situation. Let’s not write off the NHS just yet, nor take for granted the wonder of free healthcare.

2 thoughts on “My NHS Story (That’s our free National Health Service for any overseas visitors to this blog)

  1. Sarah Lohse says:

    I’m so glad your experience was a good one!

    As a qualified nurse, I’d like to suggest that you may have received the same level of care and kindness at the hands of the nursing staff of the NHS, whether or not the ward (or your bay) had been full. I’ve worked on wards that were bursting at the seams at times, and at other times small oases of calm. I trust neither state affected my ability and desire to care kindly for each individual and to make their stay as comfortable as possible, whether administering drugs, changing dressings or cleaning up vomit and tea. Doubtless the time I had available to stop and chat will have been compromised by the busyness of the ward, but I believe most of those in the caring professions are there because they actually do care. They’re certainly not in it for the money …

    Of course we hear the horror stories – these are the stories we’re bound to hear, after all, because they make headlines – and the NHS must continually strive to improve its care on all fronts to ensure those horror stories are not repeated. But we don’t hear the many, many more stories of a service that gives incredible value for money to most of us across our lifespan, staffed by compassionate individuals who are prepared to go the extra mile in often difficult working conditions to demonstrate human kindness in its most practical expressions. I’m glad we’ve heard yours. Long live the NHS!

    • writelightuk says:

      Thanks for dropping by, Sarah, and for contributing :). Some good points. I sincerely hope that this … “but I believe most of those in the caring professions are there because they actually do care.”… is true. Sadly, in turning nursing into a graduate profession, many non-academics, who would have been wonderful nurses, are being excluded from the chance to do what comes naturally to them. As you say – long live the NHS!

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