A Picture of Health

Going to see the doctor used to be an easy affair. One simply went. No appointments, no computerised systems, no NHS Direct, no parking problems and prescription charges were quite a different thing. These fees were first introduced in 1952 and would cost the equivalent of 5p per item. This rose to 10p in 1961, then, in 1965 the charge was completely abolished: hurrah! This continued for three years before being reintroduced at the grand sum of half a crown (10.5p) in 1968. Since then it has been a slippery slope all the way to £7.10p today. Appointments have always seemed slightly odd to me, as I’ve never yet been able to anticipate my own illnesses. Computers hadn’t been invented yet somehow we all, including doctors and their receptionists, managed quite well without them. Parking was never a problem as everything was considered to be within walking distance: God forbid! My mum would trot me along to the doctor’s surgery on Corby’s Kipling Road where names like Ballantyne, Fydler and Shirkey were all too familiar. We’d be given a little colour coded, numbered oblong piece of well varnished wood and sit in one of the well filled rows in the waiting room. That was as complicated as it got. On top of all of that can anyone explain to me why a doctor’s surgery might be closed during Easter, or any public holiday for that matter? As one Chemist – sorry – Pharmacists recently despaired, ‘didn’t you know? No one gets sick during a public holiday!’ Now, before I get too carried away with this somewhat rosy picture of past health provision compared with today’s, I’m rudely reminded of my Dad and the tortuous journey he had to make through life as a man with one leg. You see, he wasn’t ‘disabled’ he was ‘crippled’. The state still expected him to get himself too and from work with no mention of any benefits, early retirement or carer provision. Indeed, it was the other way round: he was the one who had to provide tax to the state and bring up a family of four. I remember as a child helping him to put his false leg on before he went to work. There were no blue badges for disabled parking and if one was in a wheelchair the likelihood would be that one would never get to the second floor of a department store. There was no talk of local hospices, no keyhole surgery, no scanners, no dissolvable stitches, and the cancer that my dad died from in 1971 is now treatable: who would ever have thought that possible? I guess we’re all guilty at some stage of forgetting just how lucky we are today given the advancements in modern science and medicine and all the treatments available to us without the need of, say, a Blue Cross card.

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