Changing Croydon: Health Services

By - Thursday 24th October, 2013

The use of computers has changed every part of our lives, in her continuing series Anne Giles takes a look at the impact technology has had on our medical services over the last 30 years

My first experience of Croydon’s health services in the 70s were not very good at all. I registered with a doctor in the Selhurst area, he was unbelievably awful. He would ring a buzzer which was on his desk to summon each patient. I would tell him my symptoms and he would fill out a prescription, then quickly press the buzzer  before I could  tell him anything else. On the only occasion I asked for a home visit I was told if I could get downstairs to open my front door then I could get to the surgery. I changed to another doctor. The next one had no appointments system and no staff; one had to queue up outside. He would jot down his notes on a piece of blotting paper. Eventually I found a great general practitioner through the then Community Health Council in Thornton Heath. He was an absolute gem and gave me a lot of support when I was going through my divorce and kept me on his books when I moved to Selsdon.

 Hospitals still used the old fashioned files, where letters are stored and notes scribbled on sheets of paper

There were three NHS hospitals – Queens Hospital was a geriatric hospital, which closed in 1987. Purley Hospital was also a unit caring mainly for the elderly, which reopened in July 2013. Mayday Hospital, renamed Croydon University Hospital in 2010 is still our main hospital. In the 70s it was a very old building. I was once an inpatient in a crowded and noisy ward, I remember a consultant surrounded by students so no privacy whatsoever. The GP filing systems consisted of soft cardboard files with hospital letters folded up and shoved inside. The doctor would scribble notes on the outside covers. Purley Hospital caters mainly for residents living South of the Borough. It provides physiotherapy and an expanded imaging service. It also has an urgent care centre and an ophthalmology clinic. Eventually there will also be some more outpatient clinics. We have a minor injuries clinic in New Addington which I went to once and was very impressed.

There have been many changes though as GPs are using computers. At my surgery every letter received is digitally saved. I have to book in advance to see one of the senior doctors, but can always get an appointment on the day if I ring early. Instead of announcing  to the receptionist that I have arrived, I simply touch the screen on the computer in reception. It tells me how many patients are to be seen by that particular doctor before me.

Photo by Bob Walker
Image used under Creative Commons license

Croydon University Hospital’s new building (the Jubilee Wing) was built  in 2004. It is a very nice and clean building, providing a 24 hour accident and emergency service, an emergency dental service, a minor injuries service and an out-of-hours GP service. The phlebotomy department for blood tests, has been renovated with more privacy for patients.

The outpatients department is very good, I attend every few weeks and never have to wait long to see the consultant. We have a good system, I e-mail the haematologist before the appointment to let her know about any changes and she will reply if needed. She enters details on to her computer, writes to my GP with a copy to myself and her secretary sends me the next appointment on the agreed date. On one occasion I realised I might have a high white cell blood count and e-mailed her on a Sunday. Amazingly, she was on duty and e-mailed me back straight away. I went in the next day for a test and had the results later that day. I was right about the white cells!

 We now have choices, we can be seen by consultants at other hospitals

A few weeks’ ago, she asked me to cancel our trip to Spain, as I needed to have two blood tests every week. I did not cancel. Instead I arranged for a blood test whilst on holiday in a local hospital, all through email and with some help from Google translate. The hotel receptionist was able to email the results to my haematologist back home, who was amazed!

What on earth did we do prior to all this wonderful technology? Our details are now available to other hospitals. I have twice attended A&E at the Princess Royal Hospital in Farnborough. I gave them my name and they had all my information. We now have choices, we can be seen by consultants at other hospitals and be admitted to other hospitals. It is incredible.

Writing about the NHS, I have not yet mentioned the only private hospital in the Borough, Shirley Oaks Hospital. It is a lovely hospital with good consultants and nurses. I have been an inpatient there many times. The filing system is still old-fashioned and I have yet to see anyone using a computer there. The charge for blood tests, I feel, is quite high. I paid £220 a few years’ ago, yet in Spain was only charged 6 euros. I avoid the physiotherapy dept., because whenever I have booked half an hour with a physiotherapist, I have simply been plugged into a piece of equipment while the staff member went off and saw a couple of other patients at the same time. The care for inpatients is exceptionally good though.  I have only ever had one bad experience with a consultant when the diagnosis was all wrong and I was charged over £200 for a mere five minutes. I never saw him again. The others have all been exceptionally good and not too expensive. NHS patients can also be referred to this hospital as well, I gather.

I wonder what other changes we can expect?

Anne Giles

Anne Giles

I grew up in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the daughter of an Anglo-Argentine mother and English father. I went to an English school and worked for a British company out there before coming to live in the U.K. I spent many years teaching Spanish in adult education in various centres in Croydon Borough and have got to know so many different areas – North and South. We have been living in Selsdon since 1989 and I love it. I feel passionately about Croydon and have spent many years writing blogs – firstly for the Croydon Advertiser, then the Croydon Guardian, and eventually my own blog entitled “The Good Life in Croydon”. I am very much involved in the community, attending regular meetings with the Croydon Community Police Consultative Group and am also a member of the British Transport Police PACT (Police & Community Together) Team.

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