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My black eye confirmed to me why we need urgent care at least
11:27am Friday 23rd March 2012 in Editor's Chair
I HAVE spent the last week enduring all sorts of rude jokes about my looks after landing myself a massive black eye, see picture.
But in a way, it was all worth it – because it confirmed my long-held view that no more urgent care services must be transferred from Wycombe Hospital.
The injury was the result of clash of heads during a seven-a-side football match last Monday night in High Wycombe after I flew in for a looping ball with an opposing player, and we collided in mid air.
I honestly thought it was a wind-up when other players rushed up to me and said I looked terrible and must stop playing. Unbeknown to me, a huge bump had instantly formed under my eyebrow.
And I wasn’t that bothered, but when I returned home, Mrs Editor’s Chair wisely ordered me to go to the hospital – and herein lies the moral of the story.
I went to Wycombe believing the emergency medical centre would be empty at 11pm on a Monday. I was wrong – it was rammed full and I was told there was a two to three hour wait.
Now I knew my swollen eye with its colossal bump (this had gone down by the time the photo was taken) was probably not a priority but I could not be sure. As a friend said afterwards, I could have had a cranial bleed.
I rang the out-of-hours doctors’ service and obtained an appointment for 12.30am that night at the Harmoni Clinic based at the hospital.
I was examined there by a GP who was satisfied my vision was fine and that I did not appear to be suffering any side-effects. But, due to the size of the bump, he couldn’t be sure I wasn’t suffering a broken bone – so he sent me back downstairs to “A&E”.
After signing in at 1am and being examined by a triage nurse, I was eventually seen by a doctor at 3.30am. He told me I was fine and just needed some ice.
Now, I have no complaints about this wait because there were people in far more need of urgent treatment than I was. All I can say is I am glad this unit was there in High Wycombe so close to my home and I didn’t have to travel to Aylesbury or Slough.
For those who have been living on the moon, Wycombe no longer has a full Accident and Emergency department but still treats minor injuries and ailments. Under plans to transfer more services to Aylesbury in the near future, a downgraded emergency unit will remain at Wycombe and I probably would still have been seen there by a GP.
I can’t be totally sure, however, how this would all work – especially if I had needed an X-ray – and I have asked NHS officials for clarification.
Last week’s experience confirmed to me that Wycombe Hospital is still vitally important in respect of urgent care, and that we should continue to resist the transfer of any further mainstream services.
I can’t begin to imagine what I would have done if there was no emergency unit in Wycombe. I could not have driven myself with that eye up to Stoke Mandeville so late at night, and I would not have prevailed myself on our hard-pressed ambulance service for something apparently so minor.
The choice would have been an expensive taxi ride or taking a chance and waiting until morning.
Perhaps the downgraded unit will be sufficient to avoid these type of scenarios. I hope so, but even if it is, who’s to say that the next set of ‘reconfigurations’ don’t axe it altogether or cut the hours back.
As I’ve said time and time again, Wycombe needs a multi-discipline general hospital. I’m not against centralising specialisations such as heart, cancer or stroke care at various centres – and few people mind travelling a distance to get the best treatment.
What people do mind is travelling long distances in emergencies.
NHS officials will say the ambulance service is there to do this for them, but as my experience shows, there is a plethora of lesser emergencies that don’t necessarily demand a 999 trip, but could have serious consequences if left untreated.
In the end, my injury was probably just a harmless black eye, but remember a GP sent me to “A&E” because he couldn’t be sure. If his referral had meant me going to Aylesbury that night, I wouldn’t have bothered and would have gone straight home – thereby playing Russian Roulette with my own health.
I don’t know what the future holds for Wycombe, and I would like to think the downgraded emergency medical unit will be sufficient for the cases such as mine that don’t necessitate ambulance rides.
But frankly, I’m worried.
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