I had to visit A&E in Hillingdon in Greater London today. I was expecting a lengthy wait. In the end I was seen by a doctor within 2 hours – which is really pretty good.
There is quite a well-organised triage and queuing system. On arrival I was logged into a system – just name and address. After 10 minutes I was see by a nurse who took a few medical details. After an hour I was shepherded from the main waiting area to a more privileged area – like a GP’s waiting room. People were taken in groups of 3 from the outer waiting area to the inner. I think that people were being prioritised – for example a child who arrived after me was seen before me.
The main impressions I had in the outer waiting room:- people were poor. This is Hillingdon. (I was one of very few white faces in the waiting room). One white woman, with a child, had a look of desperate but patient endurance – the sort of look in their eyes that people have who have spent their lives waiting for a few crumbs to fall from the table of officialdom. A second impression; hardly anyone actually seemed to need the doctor. There was one guy who looked like he’d been in a fight, with blood on his face. There were a couple of people who had injection devices in their arms; perhaps they had run out of some necessary drug and had come in for a top-up. But in the main it was very hard to detect any signs of illness or injury – apart from the relentless signs of poverty. Apart from the above, and one or two children who looked like they had tummy upsets, it could have been the DSS waiting room. No broken bones; no sprains; no one looking seriously ill.
What were all these people doing with their Sunday afternoon? Why were they there? Did they really need to be there? Or is this some kind of ritual? I don’t know, to be honest. But I was stuck by the lack of any obvious signs of illness/injury.