My 24 Hours Under NHS Care

Mike McGrail
7 min readOct 9, 2018

What did I experience in A&E and on a ward at the Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh, an NHS (National Health Service) hospital?

Last week, I was ill and spent a night in hospital. It was a Friday, and I hadn’t been feeling right for a couple of days, with severe pain in my stomach. I’m not going to linger on that, but I’m on the mend and getting my energy back 💪.

I wanted to recount my experience under the care of the NHS, an organisation that is under constant scrutiny here in the UK. It’s a free at point-of-care service that spans the medical spectrum, from treating minor issues to cancer.

We pay for it as citizens via meagre National Insurance contributions. There are no limits to your care or the type of care you receive. It’s a privilege many in the world struggle to comprehend.

How did my experience pan-out? Let me tell you…

Friday night in Accident and Emergency 🎉

I drove myself to hospital. That was stupid. When I parked and got out of the car, it was clear to me that I would be unable to make the walk to the A&E department.

Spotting a lady with an ID badge on, I asked if she could help, or get someone to assist me. Said lady was clearly heading home for the day, no doubt after a long, hard shift. She marched off towards the hospital building and came back with a wheelchair, then proceeded to push me to A&E reception. Needless to say, I was hugely grateful.

For further context, it’s around 6pm on Friday. A&E departments tend to be very busy on Friday evenings/nights, and even at that time, the waiting room was close to full.

The wait

After checking-in, I waited 30 minutes for a student doctor to call my name and take me for an initial consultation. He was thorough, friendly and truly caring. These students are worked extremely hard, and he was toward the end of a shift, yet he was steadfast and professional.

Then, a short wait for a doctor to see me. Then, another doctor. They weren’t sure what was going on, as the way my pain and symptoms were manifesting didn’t point to a clear issue, such as appendicitis or gall stones.

They decided they needed to run a number of tests, observe me and manage the pain. By that point, I was on morphine. It was here that I got to see an A&E department on a Friday night in full-swing.

What did I observe?

I was waiting for a bed on a ward to open-up. During this time, I was on a trolley in the middle of the department (all cubicles were full, and there were a lot of them). From there, I had a perfect vantage point, and the nature of it meant I could hear everything, even when I didn’t want to be able to.

What unfolded? I’ll illustrate some of the happenings for you:

A man, probably in his 40s, comes in with his teenage son. His son had called an ambulance as he thought his Dad was having a stroke. The Dad was very vocal, calling his son a ‘f****** liar’ and abusing the staff in similar fashion.

A woman, very well-spoken, screaming at staff due to the size of her cubicle, and unbelievably berating them for giving her tap water.

I don’t drink tap water, who do you think I am?!

I think you’re an arsehole, as do the staff no doubt.

Young girl, 16 max, is in a cubicle, she dropped LSD on the bus home from school and is in a very bad place, screaming in a truly blood-curdling manner. Later, the curtain is opened to her cubicle. She’s looking to her Dad for comfort. He absently scrolls through his phone. A dedicated Youth Support team, that are a permanent presence at the hospital come to speak to her as she comes down.

Chap in his 40s, face battered and bruised after a drunken assault.

Another man, suspected overdose. More drink-related patients. More drug problems. It’s relentless. I was there for about two hours.

Onwards, to the ward!

There was a bed ready for me in the Surgical Observation Ward. I was wheeled there by two porters, cheery and asking how I was doing.

After a short while, a different doctor came to talk to and examine me. That’s three doctors now, including the trainee. I was to be sent for x-rays as soon as there was a slot. Up until that point, which fell at about 2am, my vitals were checked every hour.

I was then zapped by some very hi-tech machines, controlled by two people. A porter then wheeled me back to the ward. By this stage, I’ve been treated by around nine different people. That’s a lot of care and a lot of wages.

I’ve looked better.


I’m one of six people on the ward. Privacy curtains around each of us. It’s an unsettled night.

I awake to the sound of violent throwing-up from across the way. A nurse rushes to the guy’s aid.

Where did you get Irn-Bru from?!

Says the nurse. The chap told her his Mum left it for him and he’d guzzled two litres. If you don’t know it, Irn-Bru is a seriously sweet fizzy drink. Probably very high on the list of things not to drink when you’re only allowed sips of water incase you need to go for surgery.

The lovely nurse was cheery, ‘I’ll never drink Irn-Bru again’ she quips as she proceeds to clean-up a mess that I can only imagine was biblical.

4am. I’m awoken by the guy next me on the phone to what I can assume is a friend. He’d fallen getting into a taxi. ‘I wasn’t even drunk, just the 12 pints of lager’. Aye, good one pal.

His head is split open, he tells his chum how much blood there was, almost bragging about it. A member of staff comes in and tells him to hang up.

Why the f*** should I?

She calmly but firmly tells him to hang-up, he does, through a dark cloud of expletives.

It’s 7:00am, time for everybody to wake up

12 pint guy beside me is straight on the phone:

“You should see the ward, dingy and horrible”

“The staff are nippy as hell”

“I bet I get f*** all for breakfast”

“Hope I get some cool painkillers to take home”

You unappreciative tube.

What’s my point?

I was seen by a consultant that morning, after very promptly being brought some toast, coffee (I was allowed by this point) and three different types of meds. They’d come to a conclusion about what was wrong with me and told me how it would be treated. I’ll not go into detail, but all will be well and I won’t have any lasting side-effects.

The level of care I received was amazing. I counted that I’d been handled by 14 people during my stay. Each and everyone of them working hard, with a smile on their face, despite having to deal with issues like I have described above.

Watching from A&E, I was blown-away by the level of camaraderie among the teams, regardless of role. These people are working in high-pressured, ill-equipped and underfunded roles. Yet, they push on, with an amazing attitude exuding from each and every single one of them.

Back the NHS staff

The NHS as an organisation may be mismanaged, that rings true in different ways depending on what part of the UK you look at. However, it’s not the staff’s issue in the main. The people on the front-line do their best, despite the organisational-level issues.

They don’t get paid well versus what they do. Here’s info about a Nurse’s salary:

  • Fully qualified nurses start on salaries of £22,128 rising to £28,746 on Band 5 of the NHS Agenda for Change Pay Rates. Salaries in London attract a high-cost area supplement.
  • With experience, in positions such as nurse team leader on Band 6, salaries progress to £26,565 to £35,577.
  • At more senior levels such as nurse advanced, modern matron and nurse consultant (Bands 7 to 8c) salaries range from £31,696 to £69,168
  • Source —

Like teachers, police, firefighters etc, they are all undervalued. Medical staff work long, hard hours.

Forget money though

They simply aren’t appreciated enough by many of the people they help. I saw this first hand. An expectation comes when you have an institution like the NHS. It’s a privilege.

To receive time and care from these people is special. Unique. Yet, so many people bring strain on them and the system via actions that can be avoided. Slipping on a taxi step after 12 pints for example. Then, they abuse the people who are trying their best to help them. Drugs, alcohol and obesity, all issues that are adding the strain and in most cases, avoidable.

Yes, the NHS is in a bad way and needs fixing. That’s not down to the front-line staff. Back them. Appreciate them. Don’t abuse them. They deserve better.

Huge thanks to all that looked after me, you’re great.

17.11.18 This has now been fully read 19.5k times. Very happy to have been able to spread a bit of gratitude. I’ve had over 30 emails from people sharing their experiences of working in the NHS, but also healthcare overseas. Staggering to hear of the level of abuse that exists.

If you’d like to contact me about this article please email m.mcgrail (at)



Mike McGrail

Marketing consultant with 12+ years in the game. I work in whisky and gin marketing. It’s great. Writing about many things.