Let me give you a good news story about the NHS, and then ponder a question that it raises.
We had been away for a few days (on which more later) and by the end of the break it was clear that one of the party had a chest infection that, whatever you think of the overuse of antibiotics, was going to need them. But we were back home on Friday too late to get to a GP.
So following the instructions on our GP’s website, we called NHS111 on Saturday morning, got a call back in about 5 minutes from a doctor at the urgent care, out-of-hours service and were given an appointment for 8.30 am (about an hour away). We turned up at the Chesterton Medical Centre about a mile and a half away to find a doctor and a nurse practitioner at work, and just 2 people in the queue in front of us. We were seen at 9.00. (No complaints on the slight delay; the lady in front of us looked quite a lot iller.) By 9.15 we were on our way to the chemist – only about 2 hours since we had first rung up. By this time there were 3 others waiting at the Centre.
Ah, you might say, but that’s leafy Cambridge, not the front line. Of course, you are not in crisis, like the rest of us. But NO. As I have often said before, Cambridge is not half as leafy as some sections of the press like to make out. And just a couple of miles away from Chesterton Medical Centre, Addenbrookes’ A and E has been one of the emergency departments with most, and widely reported, difficulties (on the October statistics Cambridge University Hospital Trust was discharging just over 75% of A and E patients within 4 hours, a long way short of its targets). It is possible that, while we were waiting at Chesterton on Saturday morning, Addenbrookes A and E was a haven of peace and speedy turnaround, but I very much doubt it.