Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Monday 5/1/2004You had a good New Year, I hope. Mine?

Monday 5/1/2004
You had a good New Year, I hope. Mine? Helluva party in Edinburgh, since you ask: they might have cancelled the official Hogmanay, but we struggled through stuff that fizzed and stuff that didn't. I remember singing rude songs about our hosts at 5 a.m…

The morning after the night before wasn't so much fun -- not least for Goodwins Junior, who had his own party down in London. Even when the hangover cleared, things weren't quite right: by the 2nd, he was in so much pain that he got himself into the nearest A&E while I dashed -- as much as one can dash over public transport at this time of year -- back down.

The details of the lad's affliction need not detain us: a full recovery is on the cards and no permanent damage has been done. But the general misery and frustration of the affair was only heightened by the inability of the NHS to supply the right drugs -- a small supply from the 4 a.m. consultant had to be topped up from the hospital pharmacy. Which was closed for most of the weekend, and "sorry, we can't give you those," from the nurse.

Why not? "There may be side effects, and legally we can't dispense it unless the doctor or the pharmacy nurse has explained things to you." Thanks.

I have no objection to being properly informed about medication, of course, and preferably by someone whose had the full six years or however long it takes to get qualified. But seeing as we had correctly diagnosed the chap's condition (via NHS Direct and other online resources), had access to tons of information about the drug and could clearly demonstrate that we knew about potential side effects, contra-indications and dangerous combinations, why couldn't we get the stuff? It has no abuse potential, very few dangerous possibilities and has been in widespread use for decades.

I'm no doctor, nor will I ever be. But then I'll not have to diagnose or deal with 99 percent of the things that doctors encounter during their working life: I'll have the very small subset of problems that will affect me and my close family. Online systems can help me here -- telling me the right questions to ask, checking that understand what I've been told and so on -- so trusting me to cope with the medication can't be so unthinkable.

It took me three trips to the hospital before I managed to get the medicine the lad needed, each time taking me trudging past brightly lit convenience stores stuffed to the gunnels with paracetamol, cigarettes and booze -- all far more dangerous than the substance I was denied.