Liam Farrell - Stubbornness could be fatal to the NHS

'Lead a gift horse to water, and then look up its arse.' I wish I had said that, but it's a quote from one of the wonderful Richard Gordon's novels. And it was never more apposite than now.

The NHS is a very precious flower. Every so often, I see an American tourist (believe it or not) in the surgery. They are amazed that the process is so simple; if you are sick, you see the doctor. No obsessing with medical bills, no anxieties over health insurance. You are the patient, I am the doctor, and I will try to make you better, because that's what I do, not because of any financial imperative.

But like any precious flower, the NHS needs to be nurtured and protected; a touch of water here, a tincture of fertiliser there. GPs are not against innovation; as Tancredi said in The Leopard: 'If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.'

What the flower won't tolerate is having a whole heap of manure dumped on it, something every incoming government seems compelled to do.

Because it's never too late to admit you are wrong.

I was raised as a Catholic, but long ago changed my beliefs. Heaven and hell, for instance; heaven seems nice but dull, and hell? Big black devils sticking red hot pokers up your arse for all eternity? Attractive though it might sound, I couldn't rationalise this.

Changing your mind is somehow considered unmanly; stubbornness is considered a virtue. You never see a panellist on question and answer programmes sit back thoughtfully and say: 'Yes, you're right, that's a good point, it hadn't occurred to me. OK, you've convinced me, I'm changing my mind.' It takes strength and wisdom to modify fixed views; insecurity and prejudice to persist with them.

The Sufis tell of the mythical idiot savant, Nasruddin Khan, who was once asked his age. 'Fifty years old today,' he stated proudly.

Ten years later the same person again inquired about his age. 'Fifty years old,' said Nasruddin Khan stoutly. 'No doubt about it.'

'But that's what you told me 10 years ago,' said the surprised questioner.

Replied Nasruddin Khan: 'I always stand by what I have said.'

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