I HAVE a bit of a medical problem that has left me scratching my head. And no, it’s not nits.

Back in the run-up to Easter I was hit by the most agonising pain in my abdomen —the sort of pain that feels like someone has wrapped their hands around my internal organs and is wringing them out. Thoroughly and with great enthusiasm.

After a week of hobbling around at work, giving up and going home early, not eating and not drinking (and I mean any kind of drinking, not just booze-flavoured drinking), a colleague had had enough.

“I’m taking you to A&E after work,” she declared, morphing from her usual harmless, journalist persona into a slightly stern, no-nonsense matron figure, reminiscent of Hattie Jacques. Carry On Whingeing was not an option, apparently.

So off we went and spent a good few hours in A&E, the monotony of which was occasionally interrupted by an x-ray, the offer of some much-needed pain relief, a few jabs with a needle in various veins in order to fit a canula (I have extremely shy veins — this bit killed at least an hour) and a change of waiting room.

Eventually, I was admitted overnight and kept in for most of the next day, by which point the morphine had worked its wonders and I was feeling considerably better. Not to mention guilty that I was now officially a bed blocker — but I wouldn’t be allowed home until I’d seen the consultant and told him I was feeling better and met his approval for release.

Finally all this came to fruition and I was set free on the world, with a diagnosis and a sheet of paper saying I’d need to return to the out-patient clinic in July for an assessment and to discuss further treatment possibilities.

July came and went and I’d luckily escaped any further agony — although I had also not received the promised appointment.

This was all well and good until last week when I was again knocked out as good as if Floyd Mayweather had dealt a sucker punch to my guts.

I proceeded to re-enact the period just before Easter, hobbling into work, lasting a few hours and then hobbling home again to do some lying down and groaning.

After three days, Hattie, having scolded me for not chasing my hospital appointment, urged me to try the pharmacist.

After all, any of you who have read the frequent stories in the Adver about taking pressure off our hospitals will have heard the following advice from medical professionals:

1. Only dial 999 in an emergency

2. Do not waste your GP’s time by turning up with every sniffle and twinge under the sun.

3. Speak to your pharmacist —they can advise on a variety of conditions and suggest possible courses of treatment.

4. If in doubt, ring the 111 health line for guidance.

Now number 1 never entered my head —as a journalist I know how over-stretched our emergency services are.

To number 2 I say merely: “Fat chance.” An audience with the Pope is easier than getting a GP appointment these days.

Hattie, sick of me bleating on like Charles Hawtrey at kicking out time, implemented number 3 off her own bat. It didn’t go well. I texted Hattie the details of my distress and the pharmacist declared: “No. She can’t have any drugs. Tell her to drink some milk and honey.”

Yuk. I hate milk and honey.

Though I think perhaps my case was damaged by Hattie handing over the phone to the pharmacist, allowing her to see my most recent text, which read: “Ask them if they’ve got any morphine under the counter.” Oops. I wasn’t entirely joking.

Meanwhile, back at sick bay (laid up on the couch groaning loudly) I implemented number 4: I rang 111.

A violently chipper young man named Adam, who would have been better on It’s A Knockout than a medical helpline, led me through a series of questions. No, I wasn’t bleeding from the eye, no, I didn’t have a crushing feeling in my chest, no, I wasn’t confused and no, my legs hadn’t dropped off.

When I finally got him off script long enough to tell him I knew what was wrong but I didn’t know what I could do to alleviate it, he had his answer ready: “You need to see a doctor.”

I explained that wouldn’t be possible — and he told me to go to A&E.

“The only thing we can actually do at 111 is refer you,” he told me.

What is the point in a medical helpline that will always end in the conclusion: “You need to see a medical professional.”?

The only other outcome would be if you rang up and told them you were feeling fine, in which case they might say: “You need to see a medical professional about why you think it’s fun to ring a medical helpline when there’s nothing wrong with you.”

So, if you are ill, it seems pharmacists, GPs and 111 aren’t much help and your only choice is to go to hospital. No wonder our A&E departments are under such crippling pressure.

My pains have finally eased and I will be chasing up that outpatient appointment.

As for the NHS, its symptoms seem to be chronic lack of funding, a loss of co-ordination, acute neglect by successive governments and a debilitating lack of common sense.

I prescribe a huge injection of cash and a long course of TLC from the powers that be.

Serving up a helping of community spirit

IT’S very tempting when you write a column to always focus on the negatives.

After all, we do all love a good moan, don’t we?

However, I do try, from time to time, to focus on something a little more positive and this week, that positive thing came out of a rather unpleasant incident.

Residents of Wellington House in Swindon’s town centre were ordered out of their homes overnight on Sunday following reports of an acrid chemical smell.

By all accounts, the emergency services, the Red Cross and Swindon Borough Council’s Incident Team all swung into action and did a thoroughly good job.

It is heartening to know that in a crisis, there are groups of dedicated individuals are ready to help.

But special mention must go to Swindon Hindu Temple who also came to the aid of those left with no food, no money and no proper clothing for the night.

Members turned up and helped take people home when the time came and served a slap-up lunch to boot. Now that’s community spirit.

  • HEAR hear to Angela Atkinson, who features on pages 16&17 today.

Angela, who is a Switch on to Swindon ambassador, says one of the best things about this town is the people.

I think she must have been eavesdropping because I’ve been saying that for years. As someone once said to me: “Other towns have rivers or huge market squares or iconic buildings. What Swindon has can’t be seen — it’s its heart.”