For the last 15 years, my hospital has run a brilliant service for sufferers of bowel disease.
A team of two specialist nurses ran a helpline, offering over-the-phone advice to patients. Rather than going to see you GP, (who invariably knew little of your condition) waiting for a referral to see your consultant, waiting for the appointment to see your consultant and taking up valuable clinic time, you could just ring the super-brilliant nurses, talk through your query, maybe get a prescription or recommendation sent directly to your GP and save the NHS hundreds of thousands of pounds.
If you found yourself at death's door, dangerously in need of an admission, the bowel nurses, who got to know you well, would arrange things almost instantly and save vital hours or days waiting for the slow wheels of the NHS to grind into action.
If you needed strong, chem-style drugs, they would arrange things with NICE, contact the drug company, arrange for the drugs to be delivered to your home, train you in how to inject the medicine and oversee the monitoring with your GP. Blood tests could all be arranged to make sure the drug wasn't causing damage and sent immediately to the consultant. Treatments like these would otherwise require an in-patient stay every two weeks, costing the NHS.....hundreds of thousands.
This wasn't their only job. they were also both research nurses in one of the world's leading bowel disease centres at the hospital. Working with just three or four consultants, they made huge discoveries in their field, developing diet management that is widely used all over the world. Diet management saves the NHS millions. They ran the studies that discovered that ulcers could be treated with simple antibiotics. They have pioneered genetic research in bowel disease that has led to the treatments now being used as a gold standard throughout the world. They discovered the genes so far linked to bowel disease.
Today I rang up to hear this message:
"We're sorry to announce that due to circumstances beyond our control, we are no longer able to run this service. In the first instance, please contact your GP who will make a referral....We hope to be able to re-introduce this service in the future."
Can you even begin to imagine the chaos this will cause to my life and thousands like me? We are very much the "most vulnerable" of bowel disease sufferers. We are referred from all over the country - I very rarely meet anyone on a ward who is local. We have the most severe cases, the worst complications, need the most intricate and pioneering surgery and basically, we take bowel disease to a whole new level.
Addenbrookes also deals with the patients who have lost so much bowel, they will never eat or drink again. They are fed with Total Parenteral Nutrition, a liquid feed that is fed through a central IV line directly to the heart. (I've had it many times). The IV must be set up under sterile conditions and it takes 6 weeks of in-patient training to be ready to do the task yourself at home. Can you even begin to imagine the support these patients need from nurses like those on the end of that phone line? You are at constant risk from infection from bacteria with a direct entry to your heart. You need someone at the end of a phone!
And this is the best example of why NHS cuts cost money. Just look at how much this is going to cost. Think of all those extra admissions!! For thousands of things those 2 nurses dealt with on a daily basis!! The extra referrals and appointments, the extra stress and uncertainty that patients will suffer.
No more brilliant discoveries or time-consuming research that might lead to them.
So How am I today?