Why I'm voting Labour: My experience of the NHS

I don't ever do personal blog posts. I'm not a big fan of putting my stuff out in public.  Last week I watched the Leadership Debate for the UK General Election and it made me think. It made me think about all the experiences I've had in the last year and compare it to what Teresa May's spokesperson had to say. It's made me put my thoughts to paper (or blog post). Shit is about to get personal folks. Hold on tight!

Okay first thing I should tell you: I'm a card carrying member of the Labour Party and have been for some years. I also studied politics and history at University and so am pretty opinionated about all this. However, I'm not writing this to make you vote for any party in particular. I'm writing this because it's important to me. Hell, at this point I might not even publish it.

Another thing you need to know. I lost my grandfather to cancer earlier this year. My grandad and I were very close. I lived just down the street from my grandparents growing up and they looked after me every day. It was my grandad who taught me to ride a bike and helped me buy my first car. When I moved to Manchester for University we would always keep in contact on the phone & I visited home as much as I could afford. I spent 10 years in Manchester in total (I met my awesome husband and so I stayed up North, despite the weather). As time went on my grandad got sick. The thought of not being there with him pushed me and my husband to move the 200 odd miles back to Hertfordshire, where we now live (see why my husband is awesome now?).

Grandad had an operation to remove a tumor on his thyroid and all was good for a couple of years. The tumor wasn't cancerous (which is what we feared), but they also found small tumours in his lungs, but they kept an eye on them and all was okay.

I got two more years with my Grandad - of me living close by and I'm really glad that I had the opportunity to have that time. Even if he did vote to leave the EU (but I'll let that one slide).

Then he started to just not seem himself again. Then one day he went yellow, literally overnight. That finally persuaded him to see a doctor. He was not one for making a fuss of himself. After blood work and tests were done we had the diagnosis: liver cancer. It wasn't treatable, there was no healthy tissue left in his liver. It was all cancer cells.

Our world fell apart. There was nothing anyone could do except make sure he wasn't in pain and that we were there with him as much as possible. Within 2 weeks of diagnosis my grandad had passed away.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who has experienced loss like that and I'm sure I won't be the last. It's devastating and it rips you apart. The nurses and carers who were around to help at that time were incredible and invaluable. The care team were put in place straight away. When we realised that Grandad was deteriorating faster than anyone imagined (from walking around and being himself one day, to not being able to get out of bed the next) they put in emergency carers. The matron was on the other end of the phone whenever we needed her. And if it was the middle of the night we had a helpline we could ring for advice and assistance. The staff of the NHS services in those two weeks were dedicated, professional and cared so much. Even having a good cry with us when we needed it.

But you couldn't help but notice the cracks under the surface. I watched a carer on her mobile pleading with her supervisor to up the number of staff and number of times my grandad received care. She was persistant and wouldn't take their no's for an answer. Clearly they were short staffed and had to reach a budget, but she kept on until that care was delivered.

I watched the matron ring Marie Curie to try and get us a nurse overnight to help us. Marie Curie just didn't have the availability.

And finally, when it became apparent we couldn't cope with the level of care my Grandad needed any more and that his days were few, the matron spent hours finding us a bed for him at a hospice. It was the last bed in the whole County. When that bed was found it took the ambulance over four hours to reach us because they were so busy responding to emergency calls.

Here's another theme I realised: Marie Curie is a charity. Macmillan who provided nurses and advice to us is a charity. The hospice my grandad was in for his final day is a charity.

Without those charities supporting the NHS staff we would have been lost. We wouldn't have had the advice and support we desperately needed. We had to become end of life carers in a matter of days. None of us were prepared for that task. Learning to help someone move. Learning to clean and change someone. Learning that them not wanting food or water was okay. Learning that death is not how it looks in the movies.

Without the hospice bed we wouldn't have had the chance to spend time with my Grandad, rather than running around making sure he was cared for. Without the hospice bed my Grandad would have died at home and it would have been up to us to make all those arrangements. The hospice took care of everything and made his passing as easy on us as possible.

Our NHS is incredible. It is there for us in our time of need. We all need to remember that no matter how much money we earn, or how invincible we might feel right now, anything could happen in the blink of an eye.

Our NHS is breaking. The cracks are becoming visible and wider day by day. The staff are incredible, but they need support. They need the budget and they need the backing of those in political office.

I don't think that Teresa May and the Conservative party are giving the NHS the support it needs. It's selling off our NHS to the private sector. It's squeezing the pockets of its workers with pay freezes. It's just not working.

That's why I'm voting Labour. Because I hope that by doing so the NHS gets the recognition and funding it so desperately needs. We need the NHS. We also shouldn't have to rely on charities (as amazing as they are) for our cancer or end of life care. Our population is ageing and we are increasingly seeing people living for longer with terminal illness. Our NHS needs the funding to address these problems. We can't and shouldn't have to rely on charities and volunteers as our only source of help and medical care in our hours of need.



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