Liam Farrell: What patients really need from the NHS

I knocked on the door. 'Everyone all right in there?' I shouted. An irate man in pyjamas (with a Grandpa Smurf logo) answered.

'What do you want?' he demanded. 'I have to check everyone's OK for the night,' I explained, 'it's the latest election promise.'

In Ireland, we nurse our prejudices close to our breasts. The bigger the breasts, the more extreme the prejudice: 'More substance in our enmities/Than in our love,' as WB Yeats said, who could be quite perspicacious when he wasn't busy talking to the fairies or mooning over Maud Gonne.

It's always satisfying to have these prejudices confirmed, like when one of our MPs called for ouija boards to be regulated. But it's disturbing to have a prejudice confounded. Although we're in no position to throw stones, the rise of UKIP has been bewildering from this side of the Irish Sea; there's always room for a protest party, but one seemingly based on blaming immigrants and foreigners for everything seemed an unlikely candidate for electoral success in multicultural Britain.

And then its health spokesperson comes out with some of the most basic common sense; if GPs were absolved from doing routine work, such as attending CCG meetings, chronic target chasing, appraisal work, revalidation, CQC visits and so on, they could be freed up to, you know, see patients.

This is in contrast to the other wild promises about the NHS which spin-doctors think voters will suck up. A 24-hour, seven-day health service; hospitals and health centres open at weekends and all night 'because people also get sick at weekends, you know', an extra £8bn for the NHS, same-day access to GPs for anyone over 75, out-of-hours access to GPs (ignoring the fact that GPs already do this, via something called GP out of hours), promises of 5,000 or 8,000 more GPs from the Tories and Labour respectively, as if all these new GPs will descend miraculously from the clouds.

'We're all fine,' said Grandpa Smurf. 'But since you're here, the heating's on the blink.'

'I'll get my tools,' I said.

  • Dr Farrell is a GP from County Armagh. Follow him on Twitter @drlfarrell

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