Extra: The NHS & I

Image: Pixabay/Bandidge

Image: Pixabay/Bandidge

[This piece first appeared on Too Cool For Stool after #11, 'Grapes of Wrath'. Any further updates will be included with additional dates.]

Hi there,

From this point onward in Too Cool For Stool, there’s going to be a fair bit of time spent in hospital – at least 29 solid days of hospital time, in fact.

With this in mind, I felt like I needed to say a couple of things about how things will play out with the people and place(s) that I encounter.

What you’ll see from Grapes of Wrath onwards is the following:

The NHS staff are excellent.

Actually, you can just straight-up say that the NHS is excellent. Let’s do that instead…

The NHS is excellent.

That’s better.

I’m 100% pro-NHS. Being in an NHS hospital for a period of time only solidified my views that it’s something that should be praised, protected and supported until the end of time.

Throughout the rest of …Stool, I hope to point out moments that helped to re-enforce these views. I could go on a long, gushy ramble now, but even those with the strongest, most positive of wills would’ve reached for the sick bucket by the end.

To keep it as brief as I can muster, the staff at the NHS are (in the majority) a kind, selfless, resilient, professional, funny, empathetic group. They’re probably the best kind of humans you could hope for - not many of us would want to deal with leaky body parts, etc. on a daily basis - as they actually help and assist in making sure you get better soon.

Despite their near superhuman qualities, they are just like the rest of us. They make the occasional mistake. It’s understandable. It’s even more understandable given the current set of grim circumstances that the service finds itself in: Overworked. Underpaid. Overstressed. Overtired. Underfunded. Understaffed. Hamstrung by politics and, in some cases, woeful technology and infrastructure.

And by ‘politics’, I’m generally (at the time of writing) talking about one man. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Although I live with a (currently) incurable, lifelong illness capable of ending lives, I feel my life is most at risk due to the decisions he regularly decides (or doesn’t decide) to do – and as we go through the lengthy Brexit negotiations, I worry even more about the future. Call me overdramatic (and if you do, I’ll tell you to piss right off), but there have been times where it has genuinely kept me awake at night through worry.

I mean, when an actor (who once studied at Manchester Medical School) shows infinitely more passion and knowledge of the health service than the actual Health Secretary, you’ve got to know that the wrong person is in charge.

Despite all of this - and despite what may (or may not have) happened to the patient they’d seen moments before you - the staff at your local NHS are still there to help.

(I also include all the support staff in there, too: porters, cleaners, caterers… there are genuinely excellent people working at all levels in the system.)

[Update (29/03/19): Jeremy Hunt was promoted to Foreign Secretary on 9 July, 2018. Matt Hancock moved from Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to become the latest Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. Sadly, his time in the role hasn’t been without controversy.]

Extra, Important Details:

It should go without saying that, just like the previous …Stool articles, everyone mentioned will be given an assumed name, unless otherwise stated. I’ll also refrain from mentioning the names of the practices and hospitals I attend.

Most of the people involved in these articles will still be working, so there’s absolutely no need to mire them in anything that I write in these pieces – especially as most of these moments will have happened more than a couple of years ago at the time of publishing.

As I’ve mentioned (at length) already; these people are trying to do the right thing for you/me - and everyone else they meet - under seriously difficult circumstances. Please bear in mind that they may just be having a bad day when they meet me in the story.

That said, if you notice anything in this that you need to contact Too Cool For Stool about, please use the Contact part of the website to get in touch. Rights to reply are always welcomed.

The next thing I need to point out is this:

I can be a bit of a dickhead at times.

You can stop the sarcastic clapping now…

There aren’t many people who would be at their best (or, at the very least, on an even keel) when they’re feeling tired, stressed, in pain and generally worn out in a room that is blisteringly hot.

There will be even fewer types who would feel chipper when all of the above is happening at the same time.

If you then add in these extra psychological factors (lack of control over daily life/life in general, being overly dependent on others; issues over privacy and dignity; lack of stimuli across multiple weeks; lack of communication from specialists; inability to turn on/off the heating), you begin to see some of the issues that may well be pushing one’s buttons while sat in a hospital bed.

With those things in mind, please give me a little bit of slack if I come across as a bit of a dickhead at some points. We all have our dickish tendencies – some are more obvious and damaging than others – but I won’t try and hide away from writing about mine when they appear.

As the patient in this story, all the extra stress, strain (and side-effects to drugs) does mean that I have to be accepted as an unreliable narrator. With this in mind, I’ll always ask for secondary opinions from friends/family members who were there during particular scenarios to make sure everything is as accurate as we can all remember.

Some of you may feel that my occasional dickishness is justified; others may not. That’s okay. I understand. As the saying goes: “There’s always someone worse-off than you.


Inhabiting a hospital can be an extreme test of mental and physical endurance for both patients and staff.

With the notion of tired, stressed and overworked staff dealing with a tired, stressed patient (who is in a fair deal of pain and/or discomfort) now firmly lodged in our collective consciousness, it’s time to carry on with the Too Cool For Stool story!


There’s only one addition to the Song Suppository today.

Over to you, IDLES…

“'Divide & Conquer' is an ode to the disembowelment of our NHS.

"A loved one perished at the hand of the barren-hearted right" stands alone as the monolithic truth, a sad lyric that blisters on just how fucked we all are.

The video should sum that up for anyone that struggles with its tone.”

You can listen to the full Song Suppository playlist by clicking here.

Too Cool For StoolRS