Thursday, 24 January 2008

First Blant!

Hi folks :)

OK, for the record, this is a combination online diary and rant, or "blant". Yep, I just made the word up :)

For those of you who don't know me, last week, at the ripe old age of 43, at 01:00 or so on Tuesday 15th January, I had a heart attack. The ambulance crews arrived in 5 mins flat (thanks, guys: You were: Paramedic SE48,
Martin, from Forest Hill Ambulance Station, and Ambulance Crew M401, Sam and Eileen, from Beckenham Ambulance Station - hopefully you've received your thank-you cards through the post by now), and took me to King's College Hospital, where it was ascertained that my Right Coronary Artery (RCA) was blocked. As a result, and following the angiagram that discovered this, I've had an angioplasty, which installed a stent in the affected artery; I'm far from being well, I'll be off work for a while, but I'm alive, if kicking a little feebly right now. I'd also take this opportunity to thank all the Doctors and Staff at King's College Hospital for the effective care and kind treatment they showed not only myself, but all the other patients in the Cath Lab, Cardiac Care Unit and Sam Oram Ward; I've sent you all Thank-you cards, but here's another thanks: Thanks for saving my life, all of you!

The current state of play and ranting is as follows:

I've been signed off work for a month by my doctor; Chances are I'll be climbing the walls with boredom by the time a fortnight is up, let alone a month!

I'm finding out rapidly that eating healthily and a 'want food now' lifestyle do not go hand-in-hand - and the supermarkets tend to push the 'want food now' message with all manner of tasty yet completely unhealthy ready meals; and why is it that the meats we like, such as bacon, ham, and beef, to name but three, are all high in saturated fats?

I HAVE found that none of the supermarkets appear to be really interested in healthy eating - they have a handful of low-fat / diet products in store, compared to the thousands (yes, thousands) of higher fat content lines they stock.

So, does this make Jamie Oliver (a Sainsburys advertising icon at the moment) a hypocrite? Actually, no. he pushes preparing your own food, at the end of the day. While the big chain supermarkets do indeed stock healthier products, they just don't push them as well, as by and large, they aren't as profitable as the low-fat items: it takes more effort to produce low fat products compared to high fat products, thus low-fat is less profitable, as it's generally higher in price to the customer.

Now, I'm a regular Tescos customer; I've got the Clubcard to prove it, too (actually, I've also got a Nectar card, but don't tell Tescos!). However, when I did my first post-heart attack healthy shopping yesterday, I found it damned difficult to find healthy alternatives to my favourite comfort foods, such as chocolate. Yep, Jamie Oliver, and to a more poignant level, my doctor, is probably cringing as I write this (insert evil grin here). Chocolate? Yes, the food of the devil! High in just about everything that's bad for your arteries except salt! Come on, does NO-ONE make a low-fat chocolate bar that's either cheap, easily found on the shop shelves, or even AVAILABLE in the UK?! HILFE!


Image copyright McNeil Healthcare (UK) Limited
Sorry, chocolate withdrawal. Almost as bad as nicotine withdrawal, and ye gods, have you seen how many manufacturers, pharmacists, and so on, are jumping on THAT bandwagon? I've had to give up "the weed" as a result of my ticker attack. No choice, really, if I want to continue meandering this world. As a result, the NHS were kind enough to prescribe Nicorette Inhilators. Helps on two fronts: Gives me something to wean me off the nicotine, and gives my hands something to do with regard to the muscle memory involved in smoking - smokers, it seems, are inveterate fiddlers - that is to say, we do not, it seems, like leaving our hands idly by; we like to have them playing with something when we're bored or at rest, even if we don't realise it. hence the muscle memory thing, and the Inhilators, which are not, by the way, cheap. Nearly twenty quid for a refill pack of 42 'cartridges'. Ye gods. I'm glad I'm getting my next batch on prescription!

Speaking of which. Prescription charges. Seems the NHS like a captive market. So much for universal free healthcare. Yeah, I KNOW I'm probably jumping on a socialist bandwagon here, but bear with me, as I only just figured this out... you have a serious medical incident that requires your immediate transport to the nearest A&E (that's the ER, to our transatlantic friends who might be reading this!). They provide you excellent (well, they did in my case, anyhow!) care and attention, prescribe free meds while you're in their care, but the moment you get out of hospital, you have to 'contribute' to the cost of your meds, that you've already paid for in years and years of direct deducted from source taxation, otherwise known as PAYE (Pay As You Earn) income tax.

There ARE, I will allow, a SMALL number (like eight or so) exemptions from having to pay said prescription charges, but this does NOT include cardiac maladies. I'm now on five regular meds per day, plus the Inhilator and a GTN spray in case of future angina- and/or heart- related emergencies. The five regular meds have to be renewed every month or two - I think that's the case, I've only just been to my Doctor the other day to set up the repeat prescription order there; either way, I will have to pay £6.85 PER ITEM on that prescription; that's 34.25 per month, at worst, making it £411 EVERY YEAR, at worst, for these items that I'll likely as not have to keep taking on a daily basis for the rest of my life.

Erm... can I have a heart attack again, having just discovered the financial cost of my heart attack? Or will that REALLY break the bank?

In all fairness, someone with half a heart in Whitehall has done something at least part way to remedy this: It's called a pre-pay Prescription card. You shell out to the Ministry of Health for these, and if I recall correctly, they're ninety quid per annum; what isn't too clear is if they are per-item, per prescription, or flat-rate on everything prescription-related. Never the less, you still have to pay for the privilege of what you've already paid in income tax for: Another case, I feel, of double taxation.

I mean come ON, you muppits in Westminster: Surely Aneurin Bevan didn't want us to personally pay through the nose for the entirety of our lives when he envisioned a national healthcare service, did he? Of course not - he envisioned that the healthy - I mean wealthy - would pay for the unhealthy, as any good socialist would!

Oh, hang on, I forgot. There aren't any socialists any more. It's "New Labour" (remember to add a cheesy blairite-like gormless all-teeth-and-no-eyes-smile when saying that), isn't it.

So what if I'm a little slow on the uptake at the moment? Sue me - I just had a sodding heart attack!


The Muller said...

Yep, long term meds can cost a lot. But, all is not lost. The NHS does have a scheme that significantly reduces the financial burden. Ask your doc or at the pharmacy, or look at the web site

The Muller said...


I fired off that comment before I fully read your post. The single charge covers all items on your prescription. So pay up and make sure you get your doc to prescribe as much as possible to get full value.

BTW. I'm somewhat older than you, and I seem to remember my mother had to pay for prescribed meds in the early 1950s. I don't think that bit of the service was free for too long - if at all.

Roger said...

The Muller - thanks for the heads up on the PPC charge format - that's darned helpful - cheers :)

I still stand by my comments regarding the fact that we pay income taxes to pay for (amongst other things) health care, and National Insurance (notionally) to pay for such things as medication, Social Security, and pensions, and that we should not, as British Subjects (oh, OK, Citizens, then!), have to pay for those again, but there y'go. We elect them into Parliament, and then they darn well go and do whatever the heck they feel like doing.

Anyhow, that's a Blant for another day :)

Again, cheers for the comments :)