As I have previously stated, it is always good to receive constructive feedback on the contents of this column. So I was intrigued last week when a Scunthorpe Telegraph reader took the time and trouble to put pen to paper and shared her reflections on the NHS. The lady started by telling me that she always reads my piece, but immediately went on to say ‘But, oh dear, you do whinge a little’. However, she then addressed the reasons why she felt that the NHS is not what it once was, and why it does not satisfactorily serve her requirements, nor those of her husband. Those reasons covered another three pages of the letter.
It was the difference between the opening statement of the lady’s letter and the contents of the main body that caused my intrigue; as here was someone who was castigating me for the opinions I express in this column, but then had a whole host of issues which trouble her about the NHS.
Now, always one to try and work with facts rather than hearsay or supposition, you might have guessed by now that my first recourse was to check the definition of the word ‘whinge’, especially as I have never previously been told that I do that. According to my well-worn copy of the Oxford Dictionary, to ‘whinge’ means to ‘complain persistently and peevishly’. The ‘persistently’ bit I accept without any hesitation; I am nothing if not dedicated to the task of trying to improve the lot of my fellow man and woman, and I will not cease in trying to influence those issues that are so obviously wrong in life. However, I am a little less certain about the ‘peevishly’ bit. Once again, the Oxford Dictionary rescued me. ‘Peevish’ means ‘irritable’; the implication being that I upset or irritate some of my readers by what I write.
Oh dear! What have I written so laboriously about so as to start upsetting people? Well, there has been quite a lot about how the new structure of the NHS is tearing the organisation apart, depriving GPs of funds to do the job properly, undermining the morale of healthcare staff, pushing the NHS into private hands, fragmenting care, increasing waiting times, reducing services, increasing the number of doctors retiring early or seeking employment elsewhere, and reducing the attraction of medicine in general, and general practice in particular, to newly qualified doctors. So, I guess I have been quite persistent about all of that over the past year or so.
The question is, does any of the aforementioned matter to my readers? Well, the same lady went on to lament the decline of a 24-hour GP service provided by her own doctor, the difficulty in booking appointments, the lack of continuity through not being able to see the same doctor on successive occasions, the reduction in home visits, and the changing standards of the old-fashioned ‘bedside manner’. Dear reader, I couldn’t agree more with you. General Practice is not what it used to be, and will become even worse if we cannot rescue the disintegration of the NHS. If bringing these issues into the open causes you irritation, then I am so very sorry; but I can at least claim to be trying hard to fight your cause.
First published in the Scunthorpe Telegraph, 11 April 2013
© Copyright Robert M Jaggs-Fowler 2013