One of the ironic things about writing about healthcare for a living is that if you are well yourself, you rarely get to see ill health in the raw.

But recently, as a result of being a first-aider at work, I was able to see a nearby accident and emergency department in action. Diane, a woman who works in the office, had developed a rapid heartbeat. It had happened before and she knew the best thing to do was to go to hospital. HSJ Towers is handily situated near an accident and emergency department and I went with her despite her protests: nobody wants to sit around in a hospital waiting room on their own, I said.

(I must add here that I didn't become a first-aider out of a desire to see the inside of more A&E departments, but I was curious about this one due to its proximity and because it has recently been refurbished.)

At the hospital the first person we saw was a triage nurse, who did a swift assessment. Diane was in a wheelchair on the way to a resuscitation area before you could say chest pains.

I always thought the resuscitation area was where people were, well, resuscitated. It turned out to be rather more low key than that. Fifteen minutes later, Diane was in a bed, being given a drug to get her heart rate down and hooked up to some impressive-looking machines.

Fascinating stuff, from seeing how scared most of the younger doctors looked in comparison with how self-assured the nurses were, to the fact that despite the department being clean and tidy, there was barely enough room to swing a chest tube.

Diane's treatment was administered so swiftly and all with just a modicum of form filling - because she had been there before, they had her records - and, of course, no questions about how anything was going to be paid for. I know nothing about cardiology, but I am guessing that the drug she had was not cheap.

Darn it all, readers, but it made me feel proud of and grateful for the NHS.

If I am called on less urgent first-aiding business next time, I'll see if I can give you the view from the waiting room.