The NHS is not as sick as the media moaners say it is!


Back in beautiful Northumberland, former Newcastle Journal editor Neil Fowler atacks the ‘basket case’ image of the NHS portrayed by moaners in some parts of the media

ANOTHER day, another gloomy story about the National Health Service (The Times, passim, Radio 4’s Today programme every day). When I read and hear such stories I reflect on my own recent experiences . . . and I see two different worlds.

My world testifies to the outstanding service I received from the team at the Eye Centre at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle in December, having suddenly lost the vision in my right eye on an overseas trip.

I arrived there direct from Newcastle Airport without notice, at all times to be treated professionally and with care and courtesy by administrative staff, nurses, doctors and the registrar who saw me and who constantly (and consistently) kept me informed of all that was happening.

At no point was I, the alarmed patient, ever forgotten.

This was repeated two days later when I met with an amazing consultant who undertook an emergency operation just three hours after examining me for the first time, surgery which ended in the successful restoration of my eyesight.

Her skill, patient understanding and compassion were extraordinary, fully supported by staff in both operating theatre and on the ward, who encouraged an overnight stay, found me nightwear and wash gear and fed me royally. In other words, I was cared for in the best possible way.

I arrived at the Centre direct from Newcastle Airport having lost vision in my left eye

I saw the consultant again two weeks later, on time and without queuing. When I meet her again in a few weeks time for a final sign off I envisage no problems.

So here’s my point:

I do not recognise the NHS that has been so widely discussed in recent weeks.
I received brilliant treatment, provided by a skilled and highly-motivated staff.
I was treated in a first-class, ultra-modern and well-resourced hospital.

My other recent encounters with the NHS are the same. A year earlier I underwent elective surgery in Northampton. Again, first class and timely service from GPs and hospital alike. Day-to-day medical access on our return to Northumberland was easy and friendly at both GP and dentist in Rothbury.

Every day, tens of thousands of people (maybe hundreds of thousands) of people like me like me across the UK receive similarly superb treatment, and yet this success is too often forgotten.

In my experience (and, I’m sure, that of many others) the NHS is far from the basket case that parts of the media and the moaners say it is.

Perhaps a little more balance is required?

AFTER editing The Journal, Neil edited The Western Mail in Wales; was publisher of the Toronto Sun in Canada; returned to the UK to edit Which? magazine; and spent a time at Nuffield College, Oxford as a research fellow.


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