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A Cheltenham man who suffered four cardiac arrests and stopped breathing 22 times on the operating table says his experiences of using local healthcare spurred him on to help improve NHS services in Gloucestershire.

Former IT project manager John is now urging others to share their experiences as part of the What Would You Do campaign launched by local Healthwatch across the country.

Father of three John says his own personal experiences of local health services has been mixed but he believes feedback is important to help improve services.  He said: “I suffered a heart attack in 1998 that damaged my heart muscle, this was followed by an episode of bradycardia that left me with minor brain damage – mainly affecting my memory.

“Shortly after this I had an operation to remove a grossly enlarged thyroid gland and during this I suffered four cardiac arrests and stopped breathing 22 times!  This led to further minor brain damage, the effect of which is that I lost most of my mid-term memory and my short-term memory is still patchy.

“I was diagnosed with ME after five years of tests, and a few years later I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, which is now controlled well by multiple daily insulin injections.  I had a second heart attack in 2012, luckily it was treated promptly and insertion of a couple of stents in my cardiac arteries sorted me out.

“My GP (now retired) used to call me his miracle patient as most other patients who had a similar history are dead!”

John, 68, has been a regular user of local GP surgeries and hospitals due to his health conditions.  He continued: “The regular turnover of GPs at my local practice means that I have no real continuity of care – having to explain anything that is not on the computer records, time and time again, is tedious and wastes valuable consultation time.

“That said, they did save my life when I had the episode of bradycardia.  My medication is managed well and they carry out regular blood tests to ensure that I am functioning as well as I can.  I also have regular health checks for my diabetes and heart condition.  My diabetes is also monitored by regular consultations with a consultant at Cheltenham General Hospital.

“For me personally, I would like to see more continuity of GP care enabling a real two-way relationship to be established with a named doctor.  Provision of more support for ME/CFS in Gloucestershire, rather than relying on the Bristol-based team and better care for dementia sufferers.”

John added: “I would say that the cardiac rehab courses offered by Cheltenham & Gloucestershire hospitals are excellent, however they do need to be able to tailor the exercise components to allow those with mobility issues and other chronic conditions to take part.

“Also, the on-ward care at the Cheltenham General Hospital Cardiac Unit is superb and is provided by dedicated compassionate and caring staff.  By contrast, when transferred to Bristol for a procedure the care was professional but it felt like you were just a bed number.

“This is almost certainly due to the high throughput of the Bristol cardiac unit.  Finally, some patients feel afraid and unsafe when they complete the rehab course, some ongoing support would help. Ideally in the patient’s own home.”

For more details on What Would You Do? visit: www.healthwatchgloucestershire.co.uk/project/nhs-long-term-plan.