When I was a boy I can remember my father telling me how there was never a cold bed to be found in the villages surrounding the building site of Brunel’s great Box Tunnel. What he meant by this was that as one workman left his bed for a shift, another worker coming ‘off shift’ would jump straight into it. It was that sort of efficiency that enabled the great engineer to complete the Great Western Railway in record time. Clearly someone in the NHS has been taking a look at Brunel’s management techniques in order to wring a bit more efficiency out of the NHS. That person is known in the NHS as a ‘bed manager’.
When I arrived at this hospital I was shown to a lovely little room all of my own. The salmon pink walls and beige linoleum were acceptable and there was the welcome sight of a TV attached to the wall on a bracket.
“This will be your room during your stay with us,” the delightfully fragrant nurse told me.
Words cannot describe how relieved I felt. Frankly, the thought of sharing a room with five other men for the best part of two months didn’t really appeal all that much. I mean, even in prison it's only two to a cell. I unpacked my belongings and started to settle in. Okay, so the TV didn’t work properly and the view was of a brick wall but it was my little personal space – my minuscule island of privacy.
The following morning I was wheeled down to the operating theatre for my half-hour operation thinking that perhaps my stay wasn’t going to be so grim after all. An hour or so later I woke up in the recovery ward and was tended to by yet another lovely angel of mercy. She even made me a cup of tea. In fact, she made me five cups of tea during the six hours I was lying there. Why was I flat on my back in recovery for six hours? Because the bastard bed manager had given my bed away the minute I left my room.
“They’re shifting you to another ward,” the nurse told me.
“With my own room?” I asked.
She snorted and grinned at the same time. “I should co-co!” she guffawed. “Who do you think you are, Abu Hamza?”
Dear reader… it had all been a cruel deception.
Now, I’m a man of mild manners and not given to banging my fists upon the table lightly. However, whether it was the effect of the anaesthetic (that milky coloured stuff that did Michael Jackson in) or simply the build up of months of cruelty at the hands of the NHS, I’m afraid I snapped and threw all my toys out of my recovery trolley.
My tantrum had the desired effect and a member of the PALS team (Patient Advice and Liaison Service) was summoned to nod her head sympathetically as she agreed with all my grievances before telling me that there’d was more chance of Gordon Brown saying sorry before I would get a room of my own.
I eventually did get my own room but how long I manage to hang on to it remains to be seen. In the meantime, if you should find yourself detained at Andy Burnham’s pleasure, just remember to ask the nurse for a bedpan. For God’s sake whatever you do don’t get out of bed! If you do leave your bed for a pee you can be sure that the bed manager will have taken it away before you can get back from the bathroom.
Brunel… you’ve got a lot to learn!