Linear accelerators like this could be used to greater effect. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Image: Ian Rutherford

From a reader:

So BBC Scotland is ever seeking single cases to show how the NHS in Scotland is performing in this time of trial. OK, here's one - mine. 

Let's take it step by step.

First off, I'm an 81 year old Scottish male who seemed in pretty good health in February 2020. That month I began to have some bowel problems and met my local GP to discuss things. He checked me out and decided that further investigation was needed pretty urgently. I was referred to Edinburgh's Western General Hospital for a colonoscopy which was carried out less than two weeks later.

We have to remember that at this point the Covid-19 problem was rearing its head and the NHS was taking all necessary steps to prepare for the feared onslaught on its services.

The colonoscopy confirmed that I had a cancerous lesion in my lower bowel and that I would need to have CT and MRI scans to determine the exact nature and extent of the problem. These were done within the next 10 days and through thoroughness  found that not only did I have a rather tricky cancer of the bowel but that there was a possible secondary problem in one of my lungs. These findings were discussed by a top team of NHS specialists within three days of the scans and a plan of action decided for my treatment. Five days later I met with the consultant colorectal surgeon who spent an hour with me explaining what the plan of action should be, taking account of the nature of my illness and of my age-vulnerability to the Covid-19 virus which was by then entering its pandemic phase.

The plan was that I should have a stoma operation as soon as possible to bypass the possible problem of bowel closure followed by a concentrated course of radiotherapy and delay to reduce the size of the cancer prior to its surgical removal. Chemotherapy was ruled out since it would cause increased vulnerability to the coronavirus. The possible lung issue would be investigated separately but in coordination with the main programme. I was introduced to a nurse specialist who would be available on the phone if I needed help or advice at any time.

The stoma operation was carried out in the first week of April followed by a three day hospital stay. Automatic arrangements were put in place to ensure supplies for the stoma were sent to my home and contact numbers for help and support were given to me. I should add that these help services have continued to call me to enquire how I was coping and to offer advice and reassurance.

The radiotherapy course covered five days in early May to be followed by several weeks of delay to allow the size of the bowel tumour to reduce and further CT and MRI scans were done in the third week of June. Six days later I met with the consultant surgeon to discuss the outcome of the course of treatment so far and agreement reached that surgery would be appropriate after a few more weeks of the intentional delay.

On the business of the possible lung tumour, meanwhile, I met with the senior lung specialist and agreed to having a bronchoscopy to check on the possibility of bacterial or fungal problems being the cause of the lung anomaly. This took place within six days and the 'clear' result telephoned to me two days later.

My situation now is that after two successive Covid-19 drive-through tests in the coming fortnight I am scheduled to have the surgical removal of my tumour in mid-August. Further scrutiny of the possible lung problem will wait until I am assessed fit to proceed.

In all of my dealings with NHS personnel I have found them friendly, respectful and, above all thoroughly professional in the care I have received. This is truly impressive when seen against the backdrop of all the disruption to hospital routine caused by the pandemic.

As a final note, I have spoken to my family members in Los Angeles and by their reckoning my medical bill over there for the treatment so far would be in the region of £250,000 with more to come. Needless to say, money has never been mentioned under our wonderful NHS.

In light of my own experience my mixture of dismay and fury at the ceaseless, ill-concocted 'sniper' attacks of the Scottish media on the NHS will not be difficult to imagine.