Chris Lancelot: The bittersweet fantasy of the Olympic opening ceremony

I loved the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. Wasn't it fun watching the NHS sequence?

All those doctors and nurses dancing around in an energetic and carefree manner, with children bouncing up and down on their beds. It was enough to make them sick.

Actually, it made me sick, too. It was so unrepresentative. Where were the managers? There should have been phalanxes of them, marching across the arena, getting in the way - checking whether the performers had up-to-date dancing diplomas and reprimanding the doctors for their flailing unbuttoned white coats, clearly an infection hazard.

Then there were the gyrating nurses – so many of them! Highly unrepresentative of our all-too-frequently understaffed wards – especially at night. (I've just realised – that's why there were no managers on the set. It was after 5pm on a Friday.)

For a true representation of the NHS, we needed elderly patients lying in their own faeces, desperately needing a glass of water which was just beyond their reach; or patients on casualty trolleys waiting for hours to be seen. Clearly the practicalities precluded any incompatible IT, but half the staff could have been dancing the jive while the rest were trying to waltz.

That would have been more like the NHS I know.

Danny Boyle's opening ceremony was spectacularly performed – but oh, what rose-tinted glasses. His view is what large numbers working outside healthcare feel about the NHS and what so many beyond our shores will be led to believe is the truth. Indeed, Boyle's vision of the NHS is truly reminiscent of what inspired me to become a doctor several decades ago – doctors and nurses joyously helping patients get better.

And that's the NHS myth – glorious, isn't it? The reality is of dedicated clinicians wading through treacle to improve the nation's health, their best intentions gummed up by an organisation that is utterly unfit for purpose.

I love the principle of the NHS – medicine free for all at the point of need. That's why I joined. But its depiction at the Olympic Games, though hugely enjoyable, was a work of pure fantasy.

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