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Regular readers will no doubt be pleased to know that Mrs.GOS has now returned home after being rushed to hospital over a week ago with a suspected heart condition. She has been given a bill of health which, while not totally clean, is at worst only mildly soiled, and is looking forward to many happy years telling The GOS what to do.
 
Her stay at Ipswich Hospital was illuminating in many ways (that's Ipswich Hospital, right? The one in Heath Road? The one that was in the papers recently for sending an old man home at four o'clock in the morning?). The standard of medical care seemed good, with intelligent doctors being adequately attentive. The wards were clean. The standard of nursing was very good indeed, and it was a real pleasure to watch these young ladies dealing kindly with patients who were in some cases elderly, very ill, confused and difficult. They didn't send anyone home in the middle of the night, so far as we knew - although they did wheel them around from ward to ward deep into the small hours.
 

 
Other things were not so good. It was obvious even to our uninformed eye that equipment was in short supply and frequently broken. There was a shortage of beds so that Mrs.GOS spent her entire stay in an observation ward as there was no room for her on the cardiac ward. The lists for various tests were full to overflowing so that Mrs.GOS, who was not in a critical condition, kept being bumped down the list by those who were, necessitating several extra nights in hospital.
 
The food was dreadful, and came in remarkably small quantities. Nothing was fresh, everything was overcooked, salad appeared only once in the week so far as we could see, and when one of the dinner-ladies heard that The GOS was cooking meals and taking them in every evening, her response was "I don't blame you". One evening he was walking down the corridor just as one of the ladies opened up the hatches of the dinner-trolley. Her cry of "Oh my good God!" didn't inspire confidence.
 
But by far the most annoying thing was the car-park. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week it costs 2.50 to park for two hours. The machines will not accept bank-notes, and do not give change. They are intelligent enough, apparently, to know that when you have no silver coins and have to put in 3, they must still give you a ticket for only two hours. If they can work that out, why the hell can't they work out that the extra 50p buys you an extra 24 minutes' parking, and print you a ticket accordingly? To an anxious spouse making two visits every day, the constant search for enough coins to feed the machines was a worry he could have done without.
 
The management of Ipswich Hospital would no doubt be quick to point out that long-stay patients and their visitors can buy a week's season-ticket for 6, and that's exactly what The GOS did in the end - but when you keep being told, day after day, "We'll be able to let her come home tomorrow", buying a season-ticket seems a gesture of bad faith, though after a week of disappointments your trust in the efficiency and effectiveness of the system evaporates and you give in.
 

 
Mrs.GOS was in Ipswich Hospital for nine nights. In that time The GOS fed a total of 42.50 into those bloody machines. For what? The carpark was never once full, so a deterrent wasn't necessary. On the other hand, it was never empty: guessing that 1,000 cars a day use the carpark for two hours each, that's an income of 17,500 a week - not to mention the staff who have to pay for their carparks as well. Where's it all going? Not on the food, that's for sure. Mrs.GOS was told that the kitchens are allowed 80p per patient per day.
 
Like most people of our age, we have worked most of our lives, and have paid a substantial proportion of our income into the NHS year in, year out. We practically own the bl**dy hospital by now. Yet when we need it for the first time, they can't feed us, can't treat us promptly with machines that actually work, and regard us as a cash cow to be milked for every penny. We're lucky - we can afford 42.50 without too much trouble - but thousands of pensioners can't. Those of us who live in the country have no choice but to use our cars (the last time a bus was seen in our village was 1947, I think) and that makes us a sitting duck for these racketeers with their 100,000-a-year administrative posts and their total disregard for the people they are employed to serve.
 
This is extortion. As one old lady said to me "They should be ashamed".
 
There's someone else who should be ashamed - our government, the people we elect to do our bidding and to safeguard our interests. God, that's a laugh. No single government since the war has polled a majority of the votes, they tax us until it hurts, they open our borders to all and sundry, they allow huge areas of our cities to become no-go areas where most of us fear to tread - that's doing our bidding all right. And our interests? My national insurance money, for instance - I'm quite interested in that. Where is it? What have they spent it on?
 
One of their proudest boasts has been that they have introduced "patient choice". We can, we are told, exercise our rights by choosing which hospital we go to. We can go to the run-down, over-stretched, badly-administered hospital down the road, or we can take our custom to the run-down, over-stretched, badly-administered hospital fifty miles away. Big deal.
 
The reason they do this is, of course, to avoid spending money. "Don't like your local hospital?" they say. "Why, just exercise your right to go elsewhere!"
 
One day, probably just before we die in some dingy hospital bed cared for by kind but desperately overstretched nurses, we'll all gather our elderly voices to shout out that we don't want choice. We don't want to go to a hospital somewhere else. We want to go to our nearest hospital, we want it to be clean, we want it to have enough nurses and doctors, we want it to provide edible food in adequate quantities, we want it to have machines that work. And we want it to be free. It's ours. We've paid for it. If they don't give it to us, that's theft.
 
Trouble is, nobody'll be listening. Or if they are, they'll probably be listening in Polish.
 

 
The GOS says: Have a look at this article in the Independent. See? It's not just me ...
 

 
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