During the excessive heat of Summer 2022, I developed a case of conjunctivitis – a rather unpleasant eye infection, for which I visited the doctor and he prescribed suitable treatment, which superficially cleared the problem.  But it did leave me with a rather bad case of dry eyes, to be controlled by liberal use of various eye drops, suitable for day or night administration.

The dry eyes never went away, but being a patient soul, I persevered as was suggested until early February, at which point I felt I had to get something done – runny eyes, difficulty opening them at night to the point of pain, and manual intervention to get them moving.  So, should I ring the local world-renowned Eye Infirmary (only 6 miles away), the doctor or the optician?  I was told that I couldn’t go directly, but had to be referred to the Eye Infirmary, so I chose the optician, mainly because I trusted the lovely Irishman who had looked after me previously (“you have immaculate maculas, Mr Barnes”), and he will have appropriate equipment at his immediate disposal.

He quickly diagnosed a classic case of corneal erosion, which comes as a result of the dry inside of the eyelid rubbing the outside of the eyeball.  He showed me the microscope view of the outer front and top surfaces of the eyeball, which looked like a Hobbit landscape.  “You need to be referred to the Eye Infirmary, and they’ll set up a treatment regime for you, and I’ll write to your doctor who will set the wheels in motion.  Oh, and the cataract in your right eye is worsening as well, but that’s what happens when you reach a certain age, but nothing for you to worry about.”  Worrying a lot, I thanked him for his prompt attention.

I received a letter from the doctor confirming the referral and then one from the Eye Infirmary telling me that they would be in touch in due course.  Good, some real progress.

6 weeks go by, and no contact, so I phoned last Monday.  “Ah yes, Mr Barnes, you’re on the list.  It’ll be about 5 months.”  Trying my best not to laugh or shout at the poor woman on the other end, I politely asked how I could be moved forward on the list, as my right eye, especially, was giving me much concern.

“You need to contact your doctor and ask for an ‘Expedite’”.  So I phoned the doctor’s receptionist that day, and she said she would see to it right away.  Good, but it could be a few weeks before I heard. Oh well, if it reaps some dividends, so much the better.

The very next day, I had a call from the Eye Infirmary.  “Mr Barnes, can you get to your local Hospital tomorrow at 11 o’clock?”  I could.  “The specialist can fit you in whilst he is there on Out Patients duty.”  Blimey, and only a 20 minutes walk from home – perfect.

I arrived at the appointed hour, and was given a swift vision test by a nurse, and then ushered in to see the consultant without a further wait, even though I had been told there were three people in front of me.  A full exam, and a proper regime established using steroid eye drops plus others depending on the time of day.  “There could be some side-effects from the steroids, and if you suffer any problems, phone my secretary and she’ll slide you into my diary.  I’ll call for you in 3 months – and I’ll see you back here, as it’s obviously easier for you to come here rather than the Eye Infirmary.”

“And when to get down to the Hospital Pharmacy, your meds will be ready for you to take away.”

Trying not to stand there with my mouth too far open in disbelief, I thanked him profusely, and the meds indeed were handed to me after a 1 minute wait.

How did that work?  From a 5 months’ waiting list, to being seen by the top man within 3 days?  I put it down to being polite on the phone, being 73, and obviously being on the receiving end of a National Health system that appears to be joined up.  Needless to say, I am most impressed, still slightly confused yet most appreciative.