My faith in human nature has been partially restored this past fortnight by the myriad of telephone calls by worried patients wishing to express their concern that we live in such an uncaring world that a GP could be left stranded by the roadside whilst half his local community simply drove past without bothering to enquire as to his well-being. Many have gone to great lengths to reassure me that they did not pass me by on that fateful day; and furthermore, to emphasise that, if they had seen me, they would most certainly have stopped to give assistance. Such an outpouring of goodwill is gratefully received; so much so that, contrary to data protection laws, I have made a note of your contact details and will ensure that you all receive a daily printout of my future travel plans.
Not that I am likely to need you, thanks to an enterprising local business couple who have devised the ultimate emergency aid for doctors. Kindly presenting me with the prototype at the start of a recent consultation, the aid consists of a protective cardboard storage tube in which is housed a rolled-up warning sign. On green paper (green for medical and no doubt also fluorescent in headlights – clever people these entrepreneurs), the sign boldly proclaims ‘STOP! THE DOCTOR’S CAR IS NOT WELL!’ Thank you. I shall most certainly display it next time I breakdown; if only to assist my aforementioned telephone rescue brigade in finding me.
Sadly, the same gushing sentiments cannot be written about my declining faith in the medico-political world. If the incessant public bashing of doctors in particular and healthcare professionals in general was not sufficient, a Conservative health minister has now got to the nub of the problem. The difficulties of the NHS have nothing to do with decades of political interference and mismanagement, underfunding, inadequately resourced training, mindless bureaucratic targets, and burnt-out GPs. No, the problem has been staring us in the face all the time. It is the fault of women; or to be more precise, female GPs. At least it is according to Ms Anna Soubry MP. Why? Because women want to mix a working life with caring for their families, and thus wish to work part-time; thereby putting a strain on the NHS. Her outdated and derogatory comments understandably caused outrage amongst the medical profession and feminist movements alike, and did nothing to bolster the failing reputation of politicians. With women making up over 55% of today’s medical students, the future of general practice is as a female profession. In itself, that is not necessarily a bad thing; after all, are we not told by anthropologists that women are biologically geared to be more caring in nature than men? If that is the case, I know which sex I would wish to be sorting out my multiple pathologies of old age. No, Ms Soubry, the problem is not the women, but the failure of Westminster to recognise the changing face of the world’s working patterns, and to ensure that more doctors are trained in order to facilitate part-time working, flexible-working, and job-sharing. Paraphrasing the words of Henry II, who will rid me of these turbulent politicians? Perhaps my new-found band of ‘community vigilantes’ could help?
First published in the Scunthorpe Telegraph, 13 June 2013
© Copyright Robert M Jaggs-Fowler 2013