Private investigations*

I’m not big on hospitals. Nor market driven public services, but principals occupy the same temporal phase space as fiscal responsibility in the ‘to me-to you‘ non reality world of Al. So after six months of low level shoulder aggravation failing to respond to either anti-inflamation lager or apathetic NHS services, I caved in and went private.

The NHS is a wonderful idea, poorly executed. Great for kids, superbly provisioned for life threatening diseases but not stellar for any diagnoses unlikely to be terminal. I fear for elderly patients waiting for hip operations – the poor buggers are more likely to die of boredom than by falling down the stairs.

Having never been to a private hospital before, the irony of spoiling a PR photo of happy, smiling staff selling expensive services didn’t fail to raise a smile as I pushed through to the inner sanctum. And this doesn’t look like a hospital with it’s queueless reception, winning smiles and comfortable chairs. Even the coffee was drinkable and I sat, ensconced in a chair purchased from the catalogue of Gentlemen’s clubs, watching the world of the rich sashay by.

It’s tricky this. Because as an unreconstructed idealist – with a bent for meritocracy – I still amusingly cling to the construct that everyone deserves the same chances, be that in education or health. And yet in a diametric lurch to the right, you cannot but help be impressed by Swiss-watch appointments, instant x-rays, treatment plans and doctors who are clearly right at the top of the medical pile. There’s a joke there but leaving that for the moment, the bloke contorting my shoulder into ever more painful positions diagnosed my injury, confirmed it on his light board, filled me full of cortisone and dispatched me homewards, with two months of physio appointments, in less than sixty minutes.

He is clearly brilliant and – worse – knows it and so has an air of irritating smugness. It grates more than my shoulder because it puts you in mind of American waitresses – in that you are paying for them to be nice. Not because they like you but because they’d like your cash. But even though he is the centre of attention, still there is some residual worth even on the periphery as the patient.

The best metaphor I can conjure is that of flying business class. It is a great experience but you feel like a bit of a fraud – any minute now, a dapper, well spoken gentleman is going to explain, in cut glass vowels, how you don’t qualify to be a proper human being. This is not your world and only because the firm is – thankfully – paying for it, can you pretend that it is.

Still this chip on my shoulder is now mirrored by the chip in my shoulder. There is a bit missing, and the best a dose of drugs and physio can offer is a 20{45ac9c3234d371044e23e276755ef3a4dde8f1068375defba7d385ca3cd4deb2} chance it won’t be under the knife early next year. And post operation tedium includes no driving for two weeks and worse – way way worse – no bikes for another month after that. Jeez, why not just chop my testicles off while you’re at it.

So I’m lucky enough to be mostly healthy and three months from being fixed. The NHS is lovely in people but rubbish in process. So on balance, selling out is ideologically bad but personally good unless any nurses from the hospital are reading this. I was kidding about the testicles, ok?

* I stopped listening to Dire Straits when Mark Knopflers headband was larger than his head. Instead I shouted at MTV “C’mon you’ve made a squillon quid, stop now while you have some dignity“. A bit like this blog. Except without the money.

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