It’s Monday morning. My head still feels bad and I feel terribly tired. I go the doctor, who decides I should go to hospital in Brighton to have my head scanned. It’s modern and clean. Everyone’s very professional and pleasant. In the course of the next four hours, I move through a series of assessments and examinations: accident and emergency nurse; junior doctor; Senior House Officer; and finally the Registrar. My headaches have subsided, but they decide I do indeed need a scan. Under Health Service targets, no one should spend more than four hours in Accident and Emergency, so they transfer me to another part of the hospital, the Medical Assessment Unit. This houses some pretty sick people with drips, oxygen masks and monitors , but also seems to serve as a kind of overflow for A&E. Two hours later I get my CT scan, It is instantly uploaded onto their system, they tell me, but I still need to wait another five hours before they can get a radiologist’s report about what it shows.
I pass the time reading the entire Casebook of Sherlock Holmes
and listening various human dramas unfolding around me. A man with a Middle Eastern accent seems to be comforting a child, but is in fact talking to his Spanish boyfriend who speaks limited English and may have an appendicitis. An old lady says she has collapsed because of heart problems, but it turns out that her daily alcohol consumption is the real issue. Her son comes in. He is very pleasant sounding. and doesn’t seem surprised when told she will be referred to the Community Alcohol Team. Perhaps she know then already. She is discharged. Two policeman come in accompanying a man on a trolley. He is a prisoner serving a jail term and they are escorting him. They joke with him about whether the beds are better in hospital or in prison. In hospital he says, but the prison pillows are better. He dozes off and the policemen quietly start grumbling about the 4-5 hours they will be sitting around escorting him.
At last, a registrar appears. The scan shows no acute injuries, she says, so if I have no headache now I can go home when the senior registrar formally OKs it. I am to rest and come straight back if I have more headaches or am sick, however. She’s bleeped him, she says, but doesn’t know when he will get onto it. He could be in the middle of cutting someone up, she explains. Two hours later, I am officially discharged.
A burly security guard sees me off the premises. It’s 1 o’clock in the morning. I have been in the hospital exactly 12 hours.