Sunday 4 October 2009

Castaway – doctor or vet?

I have always said that if I should ever be cast away in an inhospitable place I would hope that among my companions there would be a veterinary surgeon. In my opinion they are far better qualified to deal with day to day emergencies and of course their diagnostic skills must be infinitely superior since their patients cannot tell them what hurts where. Of course, I'd have to stand on all fours – or on my back with my legs in the air (done that, for babies, four x umpteen times!)

I don't doubt there are good doctors and bad vets – I have met examples of each. Based on our experience over many years, my trust would be more readily placed in a vet than a hospital doctor. I know at this time of year the hospitals are full of newly-trained, apprehensive doctors who are expected to put into practice what they have absorbed in six years of training. Again, some will be splendid, some adequate and some should go back to medical school.

I have no idea of the experience of the hospital staff who recently - I was going to say 'treated' but that would be inaccurate, so, who recently 'saw' my fourteen-year-old granddaughter. Kiri had hurt her ankle badly playing football (her team won the game!) My daughter took her straight to the Accident and Emergency department at Dorchester Hospital. The leg was x-rayed and no break was found. 'Someone' decided that it was a bad sprain, told her she must use it and would not give her crutches as she 'didn't need' them. Kiri could not put her weight on it and burst into tears every time she tried. Gillian, very worried, took her to their family doctor who immediately suspected ligament problems and arranged for Kiri to have some crutches.

Days passed and Kiri's ankle was very swollen; she still could not put any weight on it, the pain was intense and she was taking strong painkillers regularly. In order to straighten her foot she had to carry it over to the opposite side of her body, above her other foot and allow gravity to work on it. Gillian went back to the hospital several times without getting a satisfactory answer. Eventually, almost a week later, she was told that they 'thought' Kiri had snapped her Achilles tendon and so they put her leg in a cast. So Kiri has had many days of pain, lost many days of schooling and given her parents a few more grey hairs – and Gillian has had to overcome the attitude, so prevalent in medical and educational circles, of being an 'over-anxious mother'. I applaud her for her fortitude – my grandchildren are lucky to have her and Paul as their parents. (My son and daughter-in-law are similarly to be commended!) It is appalling that a young girl should have to endure such (lack of . . .) treatment and such pain.

We have had several animals over many years that have led active lives and suffered occasional injuries. The vets' treatment has been immediate and to the point. By way of direct comparison one of our cats damaged her leg and the consulting vet immediately diagnosed and treated cruciate ligament damage. On other occasions treatment has always been urgently applied according to need.

Perhaps the Government has set targets for the NHS that do not encompass injuries of the nature that Kiri has endured. Perhaps the emergency departments are so focussed on meeting objectives and ticking boxes that they have lost sight of their primary function – the relief of pain and distress.

My apologies – this is a very personal rant. Make no mistake – if someone is in dire need through injury, accident or chronic illness, the National Health Service is wonderful, truly – and certainly my sister, among others, would not have had the peaceful, graceful passing that she had.

For 'everyday' emergencies those of us who can afford private medical insurance are thankful – but it's WRONG. There must be a better solution. (Education is another bugbear . . . ugh . . . later!)


  1. I am so sorry to hear of Kiri's injury, and hope that she will soon be fit again.
    Yes, your observations as regards the diagnosis and treatment levels by vets compared to the diagnosis and treatment levels by doctors is so accurate.I have had personal experience of 'failure to diagnose' by a series of doctors, and suffered peritonitis as a result. I noted that they prefered to call it 'failure to diagnose' than 'medical negligence', though I feel there is little difference between the two.
    Quite shocking!

  2. I hope Kiri will be better soon too. It sounds very painful. It is weird reading this post as I have had almost the exact same rant over the last week to whoever would listen! I have been to the doctors a number of times recently and felt ignored, dismissed and generally put out by the rude and unhelpful treatment. I have got to go back again because they do not seem to take me at all seriously-which is extremely annoying as I hardly ever go. The vets last week was such a pleasant contrast-he was kind, courteous and efficient-I know it costs money but still...
    I am not the only person I know to have had these problems and you are yet another person. It is quite depressing really.

  3. sylvia - sorry to hear you've been a victim too. It's really not good enough.
    Sarah - I'm sorry you're feeling rough too. I must say our doctors - we have two women who share one doctor's list - are both very good, particularly the younger one. One of the other doctors in the practice,the senior partner, is a disgrace to the profession.
    As for paying for the service - we already do! I hope you get good treatment this week.


Thank you for visiting. I love to read your comments and really appreciate you taking the time to respond to posts.

I will always try to repay your visit whenever possible.