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Doreen Tipton: Prescription for NHS…scratchcards!

Weekend | Published: | Last Updated:

The NHS is 70 years old this week, so it’s not really surprising if it starts to have a few health issues. Here’s a true story.

Prescription for NHS…scratchcards!

A few days ago a friend of mine woke up in a state, with the blood pressure of an agitated giraffe. The blood pressure monitor guidebook said: “SEEK IMMEDIATE EMERGENCY MEDICAL ATTENTION”

An hour or so later I accompanied the terrified woman to a nearby hospital, which will remain nameless. It was a ‘Walk-In Centre’, so we walked in.

I explained the problem to the receptionist.

“Could she not go to her GP?” asked the receptionist. I pointed out that the last time she tried that it took three weeks to get an appointment, by which time she may well have exploded into a red mist and spoilt the wallpaper.

“Oh,” replied the receptionist, sheepishly. “Only, the thing is, well, we haven’t got any doctors here any more.”

That threw me. Those were her exact words. A hospital without doctors? I wonder what could have happened there? Could perhaps the hospital’s highly-paid Chief Procurement Officer have made an elementary mistake? Could he possibly, in his haste to stock up on toilet rolls at the bargain price of £22 each, have forgotten to order any doctors?

The NHS is the country’s biggest employer. More than one and a half million people work for it, some of them British – but the trouble is, only about 12 of them are doctors, with a meagre scattering of nurses chucked in for good measure. Many are in administrative roles – such as the ones that write you a letter saying how long you’ve got to wait to see one of the 12 doctors.

I once got fast-tracked to the hospital. It took four years. By the time I got there I’d forgotten why I was going, so they put me at the back of the queue again.

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The modern-day ‘Health Service’ also takes on far too much, including some cosmetic procedures. I’m sorry, but having a big nose is not a life-threatening illness. If it was, I’m sure our Miriam wouldn’t have made it to 90. Her nose is like the Concorde, but I wouldn’t expect taxpayers’ money to put it right – at least not without competitive quotes from three local builders.

As it reaches its 70th birthday, the NHS is still a great institution, and we Brits all love it, no matter how many times it cocks up. After all, it’s in the business of healthcare – so people naturally get far more emotional and protective about the NHS than they do about their broadband or gas supplier. Human nature.

But that’s no excuse not to try and improve it, and to try and cut out horrific waste without politicians going all hysterical, as if you’ve blasphemed their God. After all, the savings could be used to buy some doctors. Yes, the NHS does millions of wonderful things every day, but like any huge organisation, when it cocks up, it cocks up big.

Despite that, the NHS is still admired all over the world. In fact, folk come from all over the world just to try it out. They know they can fly in, get their operation, have a free cup of tea and unrecognisable meal, and disappear without leaving a forwarding address for the invoice. They even use taxis so they don’t have to pay 18 quid to park. Some even decide to stop a bit longer than it said on the visa, and get given a job working for the NHS. Sadly, though, not usually as a doctor.

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So it strikes me, if the NHS is such a lottery, we might as well go the whole way and turn it into a fun game of chance and fund it that way instead. Imagine the excitement of rubbing off the panel of a scratchcard and finding you’d won a hip operation, a heart by-pass, or some antibiotics. And yes, I know what you’re going to say, but I have thought it through.

Even if you didn’t need the thing you’d won – let’s say for example that you won an appendix operation and you’d already had yours out – you could still do online swaps with somebody else who had won what you wanted. Or you could auction it off to the highest bidder on ebay and make quite a few quid – encouraging you to reinvest in more scratchcards. And the person who bought yours then gets to jump the queue, which in turn encourages those that haven’t bought scratchcards to buy some, and bring in yet more money for the NHS. It’s a win-win all the way. Best of all, nobody gets anything done without contributing to the system – even if it’s only a quid.

All in all, the NHS is safe in my hands. As long as I remember to wash them.

Tarra a bit x

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