MY OLD pal and Woodman Inn regular, Derrick Gomersall, used to joke that he had a ‘money tree’ in his back garden.
Apart from bearing a vague resemblance to Del Boy Trotter, Del Boy Gomersall has also probably had his fingers in more pies than Cross’s. The man is and always has been, one of life’s grafters. He does not, however, have a money tree in his back garden.
Nope. As much as Derrick doesn’t strike me as a Tory voter, I’m certain that he’s given it to David Cameron.
He must have. How else is the Prime Minister going to fulfil this week’s pledge to hire ‘thousands more GPs’?
How else will he pay for the equality of weekend care in our hospitals? Did you know you’re 16% more likely to die if admitted to hospital on a Sunday than a Wednesday?
You’re better off getting on a plane to Spain and heading for the nearest emergency room, than dialling 999 here on a weekend.
But worry not. Dave’s going to sort it all. He must have Gommy’s money tree.
In fact I can only imagine that, in the back garden at 10 Downing Street, Cameron has round-the-clock shifts of Romanian fruit pickers, plucking £50 notes like good ‘uns.
There is a more realistic option. Unfortunately the PM hasn’t the courage to be honest with us; he won’t admit that the NHS needs radical reform, that it is no longer fit for purpose.
If he had a Commons majority of 100 seats he might, but with just a handful to spare he can’t afford a backbench revolt, so we’ll spend another five years throwing more and more money down the black hole of one of the western world’s worst-performing health services.
I know the British people are emotionally, umbilically attached even, to those three letters – NHS. It will be like weaning an addict off heroin. But sooner or later it will have to come. It’s knackered, it only works in fits and starts, and it’s unsustainable.
It’s the elephant in the waiting room that no British politician seems willing to tackle, for fear of the public (and media) lynch mobs.
But it’s true.
What, you say you’ve had wonderful care from the NHS? I’m sure you have. There’s plenty of it about.
I have only the highest praise for some of the many consultants, surgeons, specialists and nurses I’ve encountered in recent years.
But it’s a lottery; between departments, between doctors, between nurses, and all of it within a system that functions primarily to look after itself. Your well-being is its necessary (and often inconvenient and even resented) by-product.
David Cameron’s thousands of GPs for instance. Where are they coming from? Not our medical schools, that’s for sure. Not in those numbers. Most of our brightest talents qualify and buy tickets for the first stagecoach out of Dodge.
Replace them from overseas? Well the service is already over-reliant on migrant doctors, so good luck landing one who can: a) understand you, and b) speak understandable English back.
No, not racist or anything like it. Pragmatic.
His announcement came embarrassingly in the week a Filipino nurse got life for his poisoning spree, and it was revealed that overseas recruits are as closely monitored as our open borders.
Those desperate migrants, braving the Med on death-trap rustbuckets? They don’t need to buy a fake passport. A stethoscope and thermometer will do. Come on down!
As for our Florence Nightingale nurses? I’ve sat on a packed critical admissions ward at 1am, where people were quietly dying, while half a dozen nurses yapped and laughed and joked round the ward desk a few feet away like it was noon in the staff canteen.
As for taking ‘health’ advice? More recently I sat in another ward (neither of these were Dewsbury District by the way) where the sullen, barely literate doctor and his two waddling nurses must have been lumping round 60 stones between them.
Good job they work in a hospital. It will be really handy for when those three lard-arses keel over.
But the frontline problems aren’t even the big issue here. Even under NHS-loving Labour, executives at failing trusts were paid millions in bonuses. At Mid Staffs and Morecambe Bay, where people were dying through clinical neglect, with cover-ups rife, execs were trousering tens of thousands a year.
That’s ‘your’ NHS? Banker-style bonuses for people who couldn’t change a bandage? And who clearly can’t work a calculator and balance sheet.
Last year more than 14,000 retired NHS staff were getting pensions of £50,000-plus. There’s a £400 million black hole in the NHS pension pot for 2015 alone.
Disgraced health chiefs continue to walk away pocketing huge pay-offs, and it’s once round the revolving door and they’re back on another cosy sinecure where, whatever their imagined skills are, running efficient hospitals isn’t one.
That’s the NHS ‘you’ value above all else?
Health care, free at the point of delivery, must be a red line for a wealthy, progressive nation like ours. I’d march alongside you for that.
But Britain’s rose-tinted nostalgia for a broken system, run by a self-perpetuating club of talentless bureaucrats, is killing us, financially and all too often, actually.
Still, you’ll go to your grave smiling at the good old NHS…
LEGGY Russian ex-model and serial divorcee Ekaterina Parfenova, arguing for more millions from her latest mug – sorry, estranged husband – tells a judge she can’t be expected to work. She says she has no work skills and has to spend 14 hours a day in bed.
Oh I don’t know. Russian model, milks rich blokes and likes being flat on her back half the week. I can think of something that could keep the wolves from the door darling...
Stilletoes in Dewsbury, Flair and our latest knocking shop – sorry, massage parlour – The Office are always hiring. And you’ll find some very affordable properties for sale in these parts!
I LOVED the ground-breaking announcement by Harriett Harman that anyone in Britain can vote in the upcoming Labour leadership election, simply by paying £3.
I imagine Tories in their thousands will be signing up and, despite the fact he’s at home sucking his thumb and clutching his blanky, will be casting their vote for ... Ed Miliband!
NOT that I enjoy being a moaning Jonah (moi?) but one month from now, the nights will start drawing in and someone will be telling us how many shopping days there are to Christmas.
I wouldn’t mind, but we still have the central heating on at home, and I’m wearing a vest and bed socks. If I had one of those tasselly nightcaps and a candle I could double for Scrooge. It may well be my advancing years, but it feels like we haven’t had a summer since 1976. Bah bleeding humbug.
AT TIMES, your heart just sinks. The happiest hours I remember as a kid, growing up in Thornhill, involved crawling through the bracken on ‘the Tops’ beyond Overthorpe Avenue, trying to ambush John Brook or Ian Senior, or maybe Graham Crabtree.
We might have let John’s younger brothers Martin and Chris join in, especially as the Brooks’ garden was a key battleground.
I’m sure we had toy guns at times, but mostly you pushed a suitably machine-gun shaped stick or branch in front of you as you played Japs and Commandos.
Santa never did bring me the Johnny Seven I kept putting at the top of my Christmas list. I gave up asking when I was about 23.
Heck, at times your two pointed fingers could be a Walther PPK, or a Colt .45 if it was cowboys and Indians – although you’d have to make single-shot “pow, pow” sounds, instead of whatever passed for machine gun fire. Not sure I can replicate that on a computer keyboard.
Innocent, happy, sweaty, mucky fun until dusk fell and back doors around the estate opened and a chorus of mums’ voices called us in.
I pity kids today.
I pity any kid at a school run by headteacher Geraldine Shackleton (although there are thousands like her), who called the police to a nine-year-old boy, Kyron Bradley, who waved a 12-inch ruler as a pretend sword, in a game of knights and dragons. Beggars belief, doesn’t it?
The little lad didn’t put a pal’s eye out, no harm done. Mum was spoken to (which was overreacting anyway). But the police? How to stigmatise a child for life, eh?
Mrs Shackleton commented: “Schools work closely with local police as a matter of routine to gain help and guidance in these matters.
“Kyron has previously refused to dress up in fairy princess clothes as part of our Year 4 Transgender Awareness SATs and I felt we needed to address this male-oriented imbalance.”
(I made that last sentence up, by the way. But it can only be a matter of time…)