There was a time, not long ago, when British GPs provided the best home doctor service in the world. Patients could telephone their doctor 24 hours a day, seven days a week (including Christmas), ask for a home visit and get one. Patients prepared to visit the surgery could expect to see a doctor the day they called.
Today, it is easier to find a plumber than a doctor at night and weekends. Patients wanting emergency help out of office hours must visit their nearest major hospital and spend hours queuing in the A&E department.
I’m a doctor, and I don’t care about the NHS. In this country, that’s an almost heretical statement — but it’s true. What I mean is that I have absolutely no interest in ensuring its survival simply because it’s a great national treasure. What I care about is making sure that we have the best possible and most cost-effective healthcare system. And as it happens, despite the strikes, panic and doom-mongering, I think the NHS — by which I mean a nationalised healthcare model — is the best option available, if only someone were brave enough to make the right changes in the right way.
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[/audioplayer]I have just moved back to Brighton, and I am happy to report that it remains as shambolic as ever. The estate agent said before opening the door to a prospective flat, ‘I’m obliged by law to tell you that the previous tenant was an alcoholic and died here.
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[/audioplayer]How odd that David Cameron is still threatening us with ‘Vote Ukip, get Labour’, even after the Heywood and Middleton by-election, which Ukip nearly won with thousands of Labour defections. But if the Conservatives do lose the next election by a Ukip-sized margin then Cameron has only himself to blame — for the second time in a row.
I was astonished, in London the other week, to discover how closely you Britons were following the Oscar Pistorius trial. I was invited to Rosie Boycott’s breakfast club, which meets on Friday mornings in a west London coffee house. The table was full of charming old geezers of approximately my vintage, all clearly Oxbridge men of the most civilised variety and yet as taken with the Pistorius drama as any Hello! magazine subscriber.
I think I’ve finally worked out the time-honoured Jonathan Powell formula for promoting a new book: take which-ever group constitutes the most bloodthirsty terrorist organisation of the day — in this case IS, the warped Islamist force currently enslaving and beheading its way across Iraq and Syria — and create a media fizz by boldly declaring that sooner or later we’re going to have to negotiate with them.
After months of escalating tensions over Ukraine and talk of a new cold war, Russia and the West could soon reach a surprising rapprochement. The eurozone economy is suffering badly and sanctions against Russia are partly to blame. Winter is also upon us, and that reminds every-one Vladimir Putin still holds the cards when it comes to supplying gas.
The clincher, though, is that Ukraine is heading towards financial meltdown.
Driving up the west coast, from Bridge-town to Speightstown, you soon see why people around here call this the Platinum Coast. It’s not just the colour of the coral sand — it’s the colour of the foreign money. These seafront lots sell for millions, prices few Bajans can afford. Yet once you head inland you encounter another country, a land of chattel houses and plantation houses — remnants of the twin trades that shaped this island, slaves and sugar.