The Health and Social Care Bill passed the House of Commons yesterday and is off to the Lords.
Until this Bill passes the Lords we are still living in the New Labour universe so far as concerns health provision. Without intending to do so, my wider family have recently had to call upon its services on three occasions in the last three months in differing parts of the country (none of them involving me I am glad to say). One concerned a (relatively routine) investigation at a hospital in Hemel Hempstead. On two other occasions the services of acute medical centres at Nottingham and Watford were called upon.
From time to time we read horror stories in the newspapers of failing hospitals with incompetent management delivering bad and disrespectful service to patients, particularly to the elderly. My small sample out of the many hundreds of thousands who call upon the NHS each year is statistically not a sample at all, but it is all I have to go on, and the calls on acute medical services that my family have made have been at both ends of the age spectrum - a young man in his twenties and an elderly lady in her early nineties. In both of these cases the service has been unqualifiedly excellent. I was particularly impressed by the respect offered to elderly patients, and the concern that was taken by the medical staff to ensure that the elderly lady concerned was involved at all stages of the process - her wishes were taken as paramount - and at the follow up care that was offered.
This was at the macro (hospital) end of the process. But I have noticed change at the local scale. My own doctors' surgery have implemented a scheme whereby every patient who rings in for a non-emergency appointment will receive a telephone call the same day from the surgery's duty doctor to discuss the matter and how best to deal with it.
I cannot say that the last of those (the GP level) is due to policies of the former Labour government, and anyway so much depends on the commitment of individuals who decide that they want to make a difference. What I can say is that I have been greatly impressed by the service offered to my family by the NHS.
It is sometimes said that the question whether a society can be regarded as truly civilised is to be judged by the way in which it treats its sick and elderly. If that is the test, then on my small sample things are better than we sometimes fear.