An Audiological issue

Orkney 209 megabus

An Audiological issue

By Duncan Harley

A progressive and proud nation, Scotland takes good care of its senior citizens.

With a transport network second to none, Scotland’s bus pass holders can enjoy free travel to and from most anywhere on the Scottish mainland.

Skye and the Western Isles are on tap. Edinburgh, Glasgow and even Portlethan beckon, subject of course to an occasional 50p booking fee

Courtesy of Megabus Gold, the aged can even eat completely free en-route. Ticket holders are entitled to a meal on board – courtesy of the Scottish Government.

Perhaps it’s just a pack of cheap sandwiches, a small dried up croissant and wee cup of coffee, but in the big scheme of things it is surprising that more of us Scot’s don’t simply sell up and live on the buses. No Council tax, no heating bills and a food bank on tap. Bring it on! Plus the view over the Dee is simply amazing from the top deck.

The NHS by contrast has quite a long way to go. Underachieving seems to be the preferred way forward.

I recently returned from a trip abroad with that dreaded lurgie – blocked ears!

Over the past few decades I have often suffered from this problem. Air travel and high altitude is the usual cause and the resulting issue is a hearing one. Imagine being in a glass jar with echoes all around. All communication becomes strained. Tibet was the worst. There is nowhere in country with an altitude of less than 12k feet. Peru was just as bad.

The cure is a good, old fashioned syringing of the ear canals. Cotton buds only make the problem worse. A brisk syringing makes the wax flow out and hearing returns. My GP at Insch loved this procedure. It was he said “Almost the only procedure a GP can perform with an immediate and life transforming chance of success … patients love it. “

In the past few years, I have moved a couple of times. The surgery at Keith took good care of me and one GP at my new local surgery took time to ensure my survival from a life threatening complaint. Aware that appointments are hard to get, she insisted I come back to be seen until the issue resolved. I am grateful.

Cured, I slipped off the map until today.

The dreaded auditory lurgie involved phoning in for a non urgent appointment.

  • The surgery is very busy today. The appointment line is available between 8am and 8.30am. At other times please call back later. We are very busy. You are at position 53 in the queue.

I called back later only to be told by a young lady to call back in two months.

  • Two months? Are you joking?
  • Both of our ear nurses are unavailable. One has left and the other is on maternity leave. I’m not sure what they will do about this. We are very busy.

Tempted to ask who “we” might be I asked the nice young woman what I could do.

  • So what can I do?
  • You could speak to one of our doctors.
  • Let’s arrange that.
  • The earliest phone consultation is in 6 days.
  • So will the doctor syringe my ears over the phone?
  • Pardon?
  • Is there anyone else I can speak to?
  • We are very busy.

I phoned various places. I called my local hospital. They laughed and advised calling NHS Grampian who advised calling Audiology, seemingly NHS Grampian were unaware that Audiology deals with stuff like hearing aids and non-medical issues. Audiology then advised calling ENT who of course insisted on a referral from my GP. I asked the stern woman at ENT about private treatment but she said that my GP would need to refer me to a private consultant who would of course ask me for a hefty fee to cover his expenses.

I called my local surgery back with this information. The receptionist offered to get a doctor to call me back.

“The first available phone appointment is in seven days.”

“I could be deaf by then” I told her.

“That’s the best I can offer” she replied jauntily.


Something sounds completely rotten in the NHS.

Words and images © Duncan Harley


About Duncan Harley

Author, photographer and feature writer.
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