Zara Aziz: How the seven-day NHS could work

'I read somewhere that the secret of success is to make small talk...but only if you are a man,' I mention, as we sit down to our once-weekly family meal on Sunday.

‘What’s small talk? Is it like baby talk?’ asks my eldest as he swallows his chicken wrap whole in one fluid, python-like movement.

‘It’s what Mummy does all day in her digressive conversations with patients, to distract them from their anxiety, depression and social problems, in between apologising 20 times a day, of course, for the collapsing muddled mess that is the NHS.’

This is the longest (rather incomprehensible) sentence we have heard hubby make over a plate of food and we all look at him to check if he has sprouted wings – except for Baby, of course, who continues to mouth sweet nothings to Siri, who holds pride of place next to his wrap.

‘Eh?’ The twins look confused.

Twin 2 is into current affairs. ‘I heard that Jeremy Hunt said that GPs are going to start opening seven days a week. Does that mean we won’t see you at the weekend, like we don’t see Daddy when he is working?’ She quickly gets to what is worrying her. My chest contracts in guilt.

‘For that to happen we need 5,000 more GPs by 2020, but the rate at which recruitment and retirements are going means we’ll probably be in negative figures by that point. But think of the positive side: you could get your verruca frozen off on a Sunday without taking time off school. Daddy could always learn to make small talk when I’m not here,’ I point out, helpfully.

My eldest considers this. ‘No, I’ve got a better idea. Do you remember when Mummy got into the robot porter lift by accident when she was in such a rush to leave A&E after waiting five hours when Baby hurt his foot? Well, I had a lightbulb moment then!’ We all turn to look at him. Baby – sensing tension – hides Siri protectively under his bib.

‘We could make robot GPs. Just program them and then there’s no need to train them for years and years. You could even put in a program for small talk. Won’t the government be pleased?’

  • Dr Aziz is a GP partner in north-east Bristol

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