My mother has been summoned to a new department of the NHS. Orthotics is so new to me I don’t know what it is or why she’s been summoned. But it is obviously important. I’ve had to move the appointment twice and they swiftly pursue me with alternative dates. My guess is that it’s something to do with her knees, which have become increasingly creaky. She’s always shocked when they crack as she gets up and down. “Did you hear that!” she says indignantly. “My bones!”
My mother gets endless summons from NHS outposts. There’s the diabetic clinic, the audiology clinic, the podiatric clinic. We dutifully take her but often they don’t know who she is or why she’s there. By comparison, trips to the psychogeriatric unit, the supposed controlling intelligence of her care, are pretty good. The consultant, who is Iraqi and looks like a short Peter Sellers, once visited her flat. Now she calls him “my friend Al Jazeera”.
There’s a new service available in my area of London. It’s for a private GP practice which will allow you to “see your doctor when you want”, “not have to wait in a busy waiting room”, and “have longer appointments”.
This is not Mayfair, but a socially mixed area with no precedent for private medicine, so such a development is extremely revealing. While the government is hell bent on “modernising” the NHS, some doctors obviously think what patients really want, even if they have to pay for it, is something much simpler: a traditional doctor-patient relationship.