I am a GP. Yesterday during the height of the A & E rush hour, seven p.m. to midnight, I sent a patient to my local district hospital. She had a complex disorder requiring an MRI scan, extensive blood work, the opinion of a specialist, and a decision on admission. A mistake would have had dire consequences. Within five hours a diagnosis was made, treatment started and the patient allowed home. There was nothing about it which struck me as at all unusual. The only time I recall things being very difficult at my local hospital was during the height of a flu epidemic a few years ago. It did not last long.
The key to the success of the NHS is its system within a system, with urgent decisions being made by doctors strictly on non bureaucratic medical criteria. Crushing central chest pain will have you in A & E within the hour, a serious road accident even quicker, a stroke in 45 mins…If you have a lump in the breast you will be seen in two weeks.Meanwhile non urgent diseases mill about in a therapeutic no mans’ land, at the beck and call of barely literate booking clerks.
So why the press hysteria ? It’s good copy as long as you don’t compare the NHS with other European countries. Why? Because the same problems exist everywhere. The UK is average for A & E waiting times. If you were to fall ill in Ireland tonight you will wait longer on a trolley than you do here, even though they have a health service which insists if you do not have a GP’s letter you must pay €100 to be seen in A & E. In France it is not much better, nor Italy. The demand for health is insatiable leading to patients on trolleys all over the world. As patients get older and migrants flood in the trolley queues will increase – everywhere.
Meanwhile in laboratories scientists are busy deciphering the Great Book of DNA to understand why we get old and how it can it be prevented, how to grow new organs from old, or harvested from pigs, and how to make the demented sane again. This coming year there are plans to graft the head of a paralysed man onto a new body. How in our new bodies we will smile! Using stem cells it is now possible to regrow rotten teeth to their pristine state.
Lefties predict a world in which only the rich will be able to afford such treatments, but like computers, the history of medicine is that treatments get cheaper. A course of penicillin in 1950 cost the NHS £200, today it is 2p.
If we are going to be made afresh and cheaper by the week, will there be any need for babies? Economists worry that in the long term, given profligate money printing governments, there is no way of currencies remaining stable. In future will the most prized paper be a government issued baby licence instead of bonds or gilts ?