Liam Farrell: NHS vision fails to impress Dragons' Den

The dragons looked as fat, smug and self satisfied as ever, even though studies, I knew, had proved that wealthy people are 25 per cent unhappier than the rest of us - actually not true, but it is something to hold on to. The whole thing was rather degrading, but desperate times call for desperate measures and the NHS is seriously short of cash.

'My proposal is quite simple; that we look after sick people, and try to make them better,' I began.

'And how much can we charge them?' interrupted a particularly oily dragon; they were all oily, it was just a matter of degree.

'I don't think you quite understand,' I explained, 'we won't be charging them anything; no luxuries, but all healthcare will be free.'

Some peasants came in with coffee and muffins soaked in sweat, grovelling and cringing in the traditional manner.

'So what are your projected profits going to be?' was the next question.

'There will be no profits,' I repeated, grovelling and cringing in an attempt to fit in. 'We aren't looking for profits.'

'There must be a catch; you tie them into a deal when they are sick and vulnerable, bamboozle them with jargon, flog them insurance or something, and then put the arm into them later on, is that it?'

'No,' I said, 'we are not trying to swindle them out of their life-savings, this is not the US. We are just trying to make sick people better; it's not complicated.'

'So what's in it for us?'

'How about the satisfaction of doing something good and noble instead of being a greedy capitalist pig?'

'No, really,' said Oily, unimpressed.

'At least they must be pretty grateful for all this free stuff,' greased a fat lady dragon.

'Well, no,' I admitted, 'gratitude is not a plant that thrives in the NHS, unlike complaints.'

'Complaints?' objected a dragon, spitting at a passing toady. 'All this free care and they are allowed to complain?'

'And there are patient satisfaction surveys as well,' I explained, realising that more and more this was not sounding like an attractive business proposal.

'That's poor people for you, wanting something for nothing,' said a dragon with a long flowing perm. 'There's no money in this, let's go back to the US.'

'Or stick with complementary medicine,' said another.

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

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