First of all, if you still can’t read it on a blackberry or an iphone … I give up.
Second, thanks to those who in the past few weeks have been sending me messages saying how much they missed my blog. It is very kind of you, but I think you need to get out more.
Third, thanks to those who sent kind messages about my daughter’s double leg-ankle fracture whilst we were on holiday in France. It was not exactly the best way to spend a holiday, but she was pretty amazing once she got over the shock, and I have nothing but praise for the French emergency and health services.
We were staying at a modestly remote house in a fairly small village not very near to any large towns, but the ‘sapeurs-pompiers’ (the French double up on fire and ambulance duties) were there within twenty minutes, and had her in hospital within an hour or so. The first hospital could do the diagnosis but not the operation, which took place at a second hospital the next day. Good surgeons, a terrific anaesthetist (I had a bias in favour of him because he was a French player of the Scottish bagpipe) and wonderful nurses and support staff. We even had a view of Mont Ventoux from her room to remind me of the cycling I was missing.
But there are two other groups of people I should mention. Both tend to get a bad press most of the time, but they were really excellent. The first is our insurance company, Assistance International, who not only helped on the financial side but were regularly on the phone to tell us what should and should not be happening. The second was the dreaded ‘health service bureaucrats’ with their accounting devices and clipboards.
Grace was in hospital for almost a week, and whenever the surgeons did their rounds, there would be a manager alongside them as part of the team. The NHS spirit in you might summon up images of pre-Obama, US-style ‘your dollars or your life’ type treatment. But what was perfectly clear was that just as in our system, you need proper management and proper managers, so in an insurance type system, you need the same thing. They were completely integrated into the medical side of things, which were managed in the real sense of the word.
Since returning to England, and struggling at first to get her inside the system quite as well and as quickly as we had done in France, we have nonetheless had the chance to hear quite a few opinions about the planned Tory reforms, and in particular the idea that GPs should have far greater say in the actual running and management of healthcare beyond their traditional role.
The very strong sense I get is that very few GPs actually want it, and that for many services – not least mental health, and this is a real worry – they do not feel qualified to take on the responsibilities they look like being asked to.
And on the issue of managers, it is the easiest thing in the world – and doubtless I did it myself when I was on The Mirror – to say doctors and nurses good, penpushers and bureaucrats bad, but what has been very clear from recent experience of both systems is that the good of one cannot properly be harnessed without the good of the other.
There can be a debate about the quality of the managers and the systems they devise, on which we have had our own complaints in recent days. But that the managers matter, and that the NHS cannot function properly without them, is surely beyond doubt.
Anyway, it is nice to be back. I am still raising money for Rethink via copies of All In The Mind, and if I had listened properly when they showed me how to use the new website, I would be able to put a link in there for you to click through to. But I can’t. One step at a time. If this is working properly, there should be something on the page to take you to Rethink. Many thanks to the Rethink team who organised the booksigning we did at Charity Towers yesterday, which went well.
My other big charity news is that Kevin Spacey no less has agreed to do an event for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research, on which more later.
Meanwhile, if you have any comments on the new site, feel free.