Yes, I spent last week in hospital


Rather unexpectedly, I spent half of last week in hospital, at the John Radcliffe in Oxford.

There are certainly worse places to be. Especially when – like me – you have inhaled a large piece of beef at a gaudy dinner (a side effect of Parkinson’s). But I hadn’t been in hospital since the age of 16 – when I was in Southmead hospital in Bristol nearly five decades ago, when the poet U. A. Fanthorpe was on the nursing staff (not that I knew her then…).

I had forgotten how difficult to sleep and stay healthy in places like that – because of human coughs and groans and the incessant alarms.

Still it was an impressive operation, hugely efficient, as it had to be for a hospital that size, operated primarily by people from other countries and continents. All except for the food and hot drinks trolley which came around three times a day.

It is hard to forget the look of incomprehension on their faces when I asked if they had any herbal teas. The worst moments were always at breakfast time, when the choice was always between Weetabix or Corn Flakes with milk or toast.

One morning they took pity on me and brought me a hot plate of chicken and veg. But otherwise it was as if I had woken up by mistake back in 1969, when the hospital first opened.

Maybe they were in fact provided by the same people who had originally been contracted to supply the food – I don’t know – they were the only English faces you would see there on the staff.

The real problem is that, as we know now, people are not made healthy by the diet  we tended to follow in the 1960s – not if you now avoid gluten and dairy (as I do), as well as caffeine in tea and coffee.

Our understanding of chronic disease, which we know now is often caused by inflammation in various parts of the body, brought on by dietary habits, has moved on by leaps and bounds. It is hardly surprising that so many of us admitted at the same time as me seemed to have been born in 1958.

Probably that stream of humanity waiting on mobile beds downstairs were also born at the same time.

It seems counterproductive to plunge us back into the same habits that brought us there in the first place.  

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Radix is the radical centre think tank. We welcome all contributions which promote system change, challenge established notions and re-imagine our societies. The views expressed here are those of the individual contributor and not necessarily shared by Radix.

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