No Wonder Politicians Think the NHS Works

The Evening Standard (London, England), December 9, 2003 | Go to article overview

No Wonder Politicians Think the NHS Works


Byline: AMANDA PLATELL

SPEAKING of his new son, John, the Chancellor warmly praised the NHS staff who took care of his little family twice under the most different and difficult of circumstances.

Yet, I hope when the Chancellor eulogises the NHS, he stops for a moment and asks himself whether he really believes every Tom, Dick and Gordon in this country gets the same service he did.

When he says the extra tax billions poured into an unreconstructed health system have made a real difference, does he believe that it now offers the rest of us the service he and his family received?

By all means praise the care you got, Gordon, but don't insult the millions of us still waiting for even second-rate care that we are all equal before the NHS. I feel deeply uneasy when the line between politicians' care and patients' care is blurred.

When I worked for the Conservative Party, there was one senior Tory who publicly prided himself on using the NHS.

Behind closed doors he boasted: "I don't need to go private. See this face, this is my passport to the top of the NHS queue." And he was right. He had never been on a waiting list longer than a few weeks. Funny that.

Who wouldn't love the NHS if we all got politician-style service?

So, when I read that chief executive Sir Nigel Crisp says the NHS has passed its own annual health check with flying colours, I want to be sick. Which is convenient, as that is exactly what I was when I read the report - sick in bed. Again.

I won't bore you with the details. Suffice to say I have suffered a recurring and debilitating condition for more than two years and have been treated by the NHS.

I have been treated to every scam to hide patients, every fiddle to keep me off the waiting list or to put me back at the bottom. I've been on a waiting list for a waiting list, had appointments with specialists cancelled due to doctors' holidays (which doesn't count as a cancellation), rung appointment phone lines that are engaged from the moment they open until they close.

I've tried to stick with the NHS, partly because I wanted to support it. For a while I had no other option, short of remortgaging my flat.

Last week, pain won out over principle and I called a private GP. He said he didn't know how the condition had been allowed to go this far.

I said, I didn't like to complain.

He said I was a fool.

We worked out the thousands of pounds the treatment will cost (I don't have private medical cover), I'm sorting out a loan and trying to establish whether it will be cheaper to have the operation done privately here or in Australia when I'm there at Christmas. The scans the NHS has refused me for almost two years on the basis of cost, I will have this week. We hope to have the problem sorted in six weeks.

IWISH I had taken my local GP's advice 18 months ago and gone private. Yes, my NHS GP's advice to "go private and go quickly".

The NHS is excellent if your condition is either trivial or terminal. Mine is neither. Nor does it hit one of the other big Ts - Tony Blair's targets.

Had my problem been in my breasts, one of Tony's targets so to speak, I would have gone straight to the head of the queue.

Gordon Brown is right about one thing - the medical staff are marvellous.

I've seen that from both sides, as a volunteer at an NHS hospital and as a patient.

They are long suffering, professional and kind under circumstances in which I doubt I would be any of those things.

They deserve better than politicians' lies and so do we. …

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