Nigel Thornton: Longer GP hours not the answer

Thornton on Thursday column with Peterborough Telegraph's deputy editor Nigel Thornton -
Thornton on Thursday column with Peterborough Telegraph's deputy editor Nigel Thornton -
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When I was a lad (cue the music from the Hovis ad to help paint the picture) a spot of hi-jinx ended with me suffering a nasty gash to the top of my leg – I still have the scar.

I hobbled home bleeding quite spectacularly and, as I was wearing shorts, by the time I got home to 3 Sunnyridge Avenue, Pudsey, I must have looked like a likely case for amputation.

Yorkshire mother, bless her, was all of a panic. The doctor’s was shut, she had no car, and her precious son was on his last bloody leg.

So she did what people used to do back then and went round to a neighbour, who was the proud owner of a Humber Sprite.

He drove me to the doctor’s – I’m assuming his surgery was next to his home – and the doc broke off from doing the Times crossword to stitch up my leg in his kitchen.

Times, as they say, have changed. Now if you have a severe case of the bubonic plague, you have to wait until next Tuesday to see the doctor – that’s assuming you can get past the answer machine and/or receptionist.

I don’t blame the GPs – although it’s sometimes hard to feel sorry for them when you see their luxury cars parked at the surgery – health services are under severe pressure for a variety of reasons from an ageing population to an influx of immigrants.

The powers that be are forever coming up with schemes in a bid to solve the problem. The latest scheme to be trialled in Peterborough is longer opening hours for GPs which will see some surgeries staying open until 8pm.

Funding has come from the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund and is part of a laudable strategy to move towards a seven days a week service to patients.

I say laudable, or should that be laughable?

It all smacks of Labour’s walk-in centres that were supposed to offer a similar tailoring of services to suit the patient rather than the medical profession.

Peterborough, you might remember, had the country’s first walk-in centre opened by the then Prime Minister Tony Blair back in 2000.

It probably looked good on paper but in reality it failed to deliver the improved access for patients as a half-way house between GPs and A&Es.

The real problem – too many patients and not enough resource – has not been resolved.

And I fear this latest scheme is yet more window dressing. GP surgeries could be open until four in the morning but if you can’t get an appointment when you need it (ie when you’re ill or bleeding), it makes no difference.

Other fiddling while the NHS burns is the suggestion patients who miss appointments should be fined.

It seems fine (ho, ho) in principle but we all know the real culprits won’t bother paying the fine and instead, the honest, hard working, harassed mum with young kids who turns up 10 minutes late will be the one who gets hit.

And, yes, she’ll pay the fine because she’ll need future access to the GP for her kids – just like Yorkshire mother needed (and got) it for my bloody leg all those years ago.

It is quite clearly outrageous that MPs will be given a 10 per cent pay rise while the rest of us are suffering the misery of austerity.

However, I advocate a huge increase in their pay. We should pay our MPs four or five times their current annual salary.

No, I’m serious!

But in return, all expenses should be scrapped, second jobs banned, directorships and union backing likewise, and payment for their staff should come out of the MP’s salary.

This would lead to more accountability, less abuse of the system and, hopefully, no more pay rises like this one.

Without doubt one of the worst things about getting old is your body parts wearing out. I have already had one knee operation and now the other one is playing me up. As you read this I’m due an x-ray on the offending joint. My doctor thinks it’s probably just wear and tear. At least it means I get plenty of sympathy from Mrs T... that’s if you can call the words “you’ll probably need a new backside with the amount of time you spend sitting on it’’ sympathy.

Diary Of A Bad Dad

Holidays, like most things, are very different things post the arrival of Toddler T and Baby T2.

Not so much a welcome spot of R&R more an army boot camp crossed with the Mad Hatter’s tea party.

The family Thornton enjoyed/endured a short break near the North Norfolk coast last week. Me and Mrs T had our first argument before the car had left our drive – fitting a roofbox is not as easy as it looks. The weather was very British but that’s part of the, er, fun. Isn’t it?I felt like I was in a time warp – donkey rides, fish and chips, ice creams, sand everywhere and family singalongs in the car – swop Hunstanton for Bridlington and it was 1962 all over again.

Toddler T spent most of her holiday searching for “treasure’’ (stones, shells and seaweed) on the beach. The car (including roofbox) was full to bursting but we still had to find room to bring it all back home. I never thought work would seem like a nice break.