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COLIN CAMPBELL: Takeaway pizzas in A&E are a bit hard to stomach

By Colin Campbell

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A takeaway pizza.
A takeaway pizza.

A recent story about how badly the NHS is struggling these days involved a man who was left waiting so long to be seen at A&E that he ordered in a takeaway pizza.

This was revealed by a "whistleblower" and appeared in various newspapers. The man had turned up in the early evening at an Aberdeen hospital, and when he still hadn't been attended to a few hours later required the services of Domino’s or Pizza Hut to satisfy his hunger. This was said to happen quite often among those going to A&E.

I can see why it was newsworthy. But rather than focusing on the treatment delays I'd have approached it from a different angle and asked the question: instead of ordering a takeaway pizza delivery to be brought to A&E, if he was still physically mobile couldn't he just have gone home and made cheese on toast?

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Because I'd wonder first and foremost if someone still peckish enough to demolish an outsize slab of cheese and pepperoni, or ground beef and chilli peppers, really felt so afflicted as to need to be at A&E in the first place, unless they were seeking urgent treatment for compulsive gluttony.

I've been to A&E twice and when I was there never had any appetite whatsoever. I could barely have forced a pizza down my throat if you'd put a gun to my head. And as time passed the rumble in my stomach was all to do with anxiety and nervousness, and nothing to do with hunger. By the pained, stricken and distressed looks of them, the people around me felt much the same.

So, as an indicator as to the supposedly dire state of the NHS, the hungry pizza man story gained absolutely no traction with me.

If I see a daily newspaper with a screaming headline portraying the latest "crisis" on waiting lists or waiting times rather than buy it, I don't even look at it. I've had my fill of NHS horror stories, and don't want to consume any more. Because an excess of them can be worrying and almost depressing. And why burden yourself with that?

One Inverness surgery - and probably others - is now open just after 7am for appointments. Doctors, nurses and receptionists are on their way to work at the crack of dawn to try and meet the demand on services. What more can they do?

I've been fortunate and have received very good and timely treatment from the NHS. But I know, anecdotally, that other people have had different experiences.

And over all this looms the census statistic which was perhaps the most eye-catching and significant ever produced in these normally bland documents about population levels. No less than one in four people in the Highlands is aged 65 or over, in the zone where you are most likely to become heavily dependent on the NHS.

If any political party scrambling for votes could have offered a credible and believable plan to make the NHS more efficient and accessible for all patients they’d have won by a landslide on that alone. But amid all the sound and fury, there wasn't much comfort there.

So many people are growing older than they did when the NHS was created and maybe there are no answers as to how to deal with the pressurised difficulties afflicting the health service under its current structure. That will remain wide open to question. But if anything also symbolises the country's obesity crisis, which staggers on to fuel the country's health crisis, it has to be people ordering takeaway pizzas while in A&E.

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