Whilst I’m old enough to remember the great long hospital wards with no curtains, no privacy, just an endless line of beds, I don’t remember the world before the NHS. But I do remember some of the jokes and stories they used to tell of the early days.
One I remember was told by a friend of my father. It was about a chap who went to his doctor and asked for something to help him lose weight.
The doctor gave him some tablets and told him to take one a night before retiring.
Each night he dreamed that he was on a beautiful tropical island. As he explored he discovered that it was populated largely by beautiful and scantily clad tropical maidens and his resulting antics meant that in the course of a fortnight he lost three stones.
He mentioned this to a friend of his who also needed to lose a bit of weight, and so he went to the doctor who gave him some tablets.
In great anticipation the friend took his first tablet and went to bed. A beautiful island, but suddenly he’s spotted by fearsome cannibal warriors and he spends his nights desperately trying to elude them, all the while searching for the maidens he’s sure have to be there. After a fortnight he’d lost four stones.
Not entirely impressed by this, he returned to see the doctor. He was ushered into the august presence, produced the packet the tablets had been in and asked, “Why did my friend, Mr Jones, dream of beautiful maidens, whilst I got savage cannibals?”
The doctor glanced at the tablet, looked down his nose at him and said, “Your friend, Mr Jones, was a private patient. You are National Health.”
Thinking about it, I do wonder whether we’re expecting too much from the NHS. If it does the job, should we expect the beautiful maidens as standard, or are cannibals good enough?
I had my gallbladder out and wasn’t kept in overnight. That’s fine by me; I’ve got a perfectly good bed of my own. I’d rather the bed was used by somebody who needed it.
I think we’ve got to reassess things and decide what’s important. Not what tugs our heartstrings, or can whip up a storm on a TV documentary, but what’s important.