Hearing the usual reports in the press again about how underpaid nursing staff are and how overspent hospitals are – with huge amounts being wasted on IT projects – I thought I’d write about my adventure as an emergency patient at Kings College Hospital a few years ago.

My saga started when my doctor phoned me (yes, an NHS doctor phoned me at home) on the eve of my trip back to Sydney. She was insistent that I get myself to casualty as soon as possible. There goes the trip home for xmas, oh well.

So, eventually I got there with my partner and set myself up for a long wait. But within a few minutes, I was taken into the casualty department for assessment. (Maybe its because a friend, a department sister at Kings, intervened on my behalf and explained just how serious it was.)

And then the fun started! Firstly, the doctor had problems trying to get one of the machines to work. Until my friend suggested he plug it in – so, I guess he was no bright spark.

That bit sorted, he proceeded to test my blood pressure. Except that he fell asleep at the end of the bed. It must have been a long shift for him.

He woke up, rambled something then disappeared, leaving me and my friends sitting there. Well, me laying on the bed. Another nurse came in and asked if I could move out of the room so they could bring another patient in – a short word from my sister friend soon sorted her out.

Eventually, they decided to admit me for emergency treatment. Time for a change in friend shifts. VSO friend arrived just as I was being taken into a holding ward, where we sat and laughed as an old lady patient came along unattended, sat on the end of my bed and proceeded to wet it. Well you had to laugh or you’d cry. So we did.

The next morning, sister friend returned with food. I hadn’t eaten for around 12 hours, since being admitted, and I was starving. No, I wasn’t Nil by Mouth – just Nil by Catering, I guess.

It was around 16 hours between arriving in casualty and being admitted to a ward. So that’s what they mean by bed shortages. And the ward was true Victoriana – from the holes in the walls to the ancient beds. Amazing. Thankfully, that ward has now been closed down.

But you know, every one of the nursing staff I was in contact with during my 3 days on the ward was brilliant. From the ward sister to the catering staff. Working in a fairly appalling environment didn’t get to them at all. They actually made my experience interesting and even enjoyable. Sad, I know. But they were all so warm and cheerful.

I got into trouble for trying to help myself to coffee, and had to be careful as I negotiated with another patient to sneak out of the ward and buy me a phone card, and while trying to use my mobile phone. No, it wasn’t a prison ward – for those who are wondering.

Eventually, a consultant came to see me. I happened to ask him how private health cover works as I had it through work. Suddenly I was surrounded by doctors and the next thing I know, I had all the drugs I needed and was discharged. Shame to end my adventure but at least I then made it back to Oz for xmas.

My subsequent visit to a private hospital for treatment wasn’t half as memorable. Quite boring, in fact…..

So a big thanks to all the staff at Kings College Hospital, especially those whose names I never caught but whose kindness I won’t forget.