Delivering stylish healthcare over substance

The health centre sign blew down in last week's storm, and I'm replacing it with 'Crossmaglen Foundation Health Centre of Excellence'. If spin works for New Labour, it might just work for me as well.

I'd thought Gordon Brown might be a bit different as prime minister, more substance and less style, that he might, just might, signal a return to Labour's staunch socialist roots.

But I have been let down yet again, although by this time I shouldn't be surprised; such disenchantment seems to be all part of the New Labour deal.

All I know about Gordon's new health prevention drive is what I have read in the papers. 'War on heart disease!' trumpeted one headline; 'free' MOTs, which will include, wait for it, age, gender and postcode.

I am waiting breathlessly for the substance, the concrete plans, for the signs of significant investment and real commitment. But of course, there won't be any; it's a cheap public relations exercise, the ultimate in soft targets. Desperately looking for some good press after all his recent blunders, Gordon knows he can't be criticised for saying that heart disease is a bad thing and he doesn't approve of it. Who could argue with that?

And even better, according to the press, it will husband our scarce resources; apparently eating a balanced diet, taking regular exercise, stopping smoking and not drinking excessive amounts of alcohol and therefore reducing the incidence of heart disease will in the end save the NHS money. Not only is the logic irrefutable, the motives are also impeccable. Whatever way you look, Gordon has backed a winner.

Although of course it's nonsense.

'Look, Gordon,' I would tell him if he ever needs a real friend and not just a bunch of hangers-on, 'it won't save you money. Please remember this.

'People have to die of something. If they don't have a heart attack in their mid-60s, by the mid-70s they will most definitely have senile dementia or prostate cancer or something else expensive'.

However, we can rest easy; there is a Heart Tsar. Doesn't it say 'action! dynamism!' like we're about to sweep across the steppes and invade Kazakhstan.

So that's alright then.

Dr Farrell is a GP from County Armagh. Email him at

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