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RICHARD LITTLEJOHN: Boris Johnson might as well have built a bonfire out of £50 notes in Hyde Park

Last year, during lockdown, my left knee gave way. There was no chance of seeing my NHS GP, so I went private.

The consultant sent me for an MRI scan. I was offered an appointment the next day, at 7.40pm. When I turned up at the diagnostic centre, the place was practically deserted. Given the late hour, I assumed I was their last patient.

‘You must be rushed off your feet right now,’ I remarked to the nurse.

Boris Johnson plays Connect 4 with residents during a visit to the Westport Care Home in Stepney Green

‘Not at all,’ she said. ‘We’ve been sitting here twiddling our thumbs all day.’

Why then, I wondered, hadn’t I been offered an earlier time slot?

She explained that the NHS had booked the facility for the duration but hadn’t bothered sending along any patients.

When I mentioned this to my consultant, he said it was par for the course. He told me that the NHS bureaucracy was ideologically opposed to using private healthcare. So while NHS hospitals were dealing exclusively with Covid cases, patients with other ailments were being denied treatment which was available elsewhere — even though it was bought and paid for.

   

More from Richard Littlejohn for the Daily Mail…

It has just been revealed that during the pandemic the NHS bulk-purchased private hospital capacity at a cost of £400 million a month. Yet despite growing backlogs, two thirds of it was never used. If my experience is anything to go by, that’s probably an underestimate.

The notion so-called public servants in NHS middle management were content to deny treatment to people with debilitating — and in some cases, possibly life-threatening — conditions, just to satisfy their own political prejudices, is nothing short of a national scandal.

Sadly, the ‘NHS good/private health evil’ mentality is deeply entrenched in the system.

There are Left-wing extremists who would rather people died waiting for NHS treatment than were seen privately.

More than 5.6 million in Britain are currently on the waiting list for everything from hip and knee replacements to heart surgery.

That number is predicted to rise to 15 million in the coming years. More than a quarter of a million have been waiting over a year for an operation.

Hardly surprising then that increasingly desperate people are opting to go private.

The independent Spire hospital group reports a 173 per cent increase in self-pay patients, over and above those who already have private health insurance.

Spire’s chief executive Justin Ash said: ‘They just want to get on with their lives and are finding it difficult to get through to their GPs.’

While some doctors are now seeing patients again, a new survey reports that half of NHS GPs will no longer offer face-to-face appointments as a ‘default’ option.

This news comes as a senior coroner in Greater Manchester said that the lack of in-person consultations may have contributed to the deaths of at least five people from a variety of causes. Their symptoms could not have been spotted over the phone.

While some doctors are now seeing patients again, a new survey reports that half of NHS GPs will no longer offer face-to-face appointments as a 'default' option

While some doctors are now seeing patients again, a new survey reports that half of NHS GPs will no longer offer face-to-face appointments as a ‘default’ option

If they had been able to afford private medicine, perhaps they would still be alive.

The grim reality is that if you want to be guaranteed swift treatment, you have to pay twice — first for the NHS through the highest taxes since World War II, and again out of what you’ve got left for private care.

Boris Johnson this week shovelled another £41 billion at the NHS, ostensibly to clear waiting lists caused by Covid and fix the crisis in social care.

He might just as well have built a bonfire out of £50 notes in Hyde Park and set fire to it. Most of the money will go up in smoke before it ever reaches patients.

And the immediate reaction of NHS management? Far from expressing gratitude at this latest largesse, they complained it wasn’t enough.

It’s never enough, even though over 40 per cent of government spending now goes towards public health and social care.

Leading economists warn the NHS, like Oliver Twist, will be back for more in another couple of years. They say the health service’s appetite for frequent cash injections is ‘insatiable’.

Much of the new money will be spent on wages and empire building. The day after the Prime Minister’s announcement, we learned that the NHS is hiring 42 new chief executives on salaries of up to £270,000 a year.

They will be expected to ‘actively champion diversity, inclusion and equality of opportunity for all’.

Of course they will. How many cancer patients could have been treated for the £10 million or so a year it will cost to employ these new bureaucrats?

Elsewhere, the unions are already demanding that the latest tranche of ‘investment’ should go towards giving an above-inflation pay rise to all NHS staff to reward them for their performance during the pandemic.

Certainly, frontline doctors, nurses and orderlies performed heroically, beyond the call of duty. But can the same seriously be said of those in charge of the system, which despite record levels of spending still delivers some of the worst outcomes in the developed world?

Boris missed the opportunity to link the new money to genuine reform. But, then again, the NHS monolith is institutionally resistant to reform.

The bovine adoration of the NHS, encouraged by politicians of every stripe, has infantilised people to the point where they are pathetically grateful for any treatment they receive.

Instead of tipping billions down another black hole, ministers should have begun a gradual shift towards a proper public/private health partnership.

Why the resistance to an individual insurance system? You wouldn’t want to rely on the state to insure your house or your car, not if it meant that when you’re burgled you have to wait at least a year before your claim is processed.

So why should healthcare be a virtual state monopoly, unless you can afford to go private?

Polls show there is significant public support for the latest tax rise for the NHS.

But that will evaporate soon enough when people discover that they’re still on a long waiting list for a routine operation and the promised money for Granny’s care home bills hasn’t materialised.

When that happens, Boris — a bit like me last year — won’t have a leg to stand on.

The latest wheeze from employers desperate to persuade staff back to the office is to allow them to bring their dogs with them.

When I arrived in Fleet Street in the late 1970s, I was surprised to see the diary editor wandering in with what looked like a Rhodesian Ridgeback on a lead.

RICHARD LITTLEJOHN: Boris Johnson might as well have built a bonfire out of £50 notes in Hyde Park

A couple of hours later, the fashion editor turned up with some kind of miniature poodle under her arm.

I wasn’t sure whether I’d joined the Evening Standard or Battersea Dogs’ Home. As a Lab lover, I don’t object to dogs in the office. They can have a calming influence. But when it comes to pets, where do you draw the line? Will people be allowed to bring in rabbits, small ponies, alpacas?

How about parrots? Given their ability as mimics, along with some of the ripe language I’ve heard in newsrooms over the years, having a parrot squawking ‘Who’s a pretty boy, then?’ all day would be the least of your worries.

Oi, Boycie, where did you get that shirt? 

That versatile actor Tony Selby, who has died aged 83, is best known for the RAF comedy Get Some In. 

But to my mind his two finest roles were as the villain Lyon, in the Queen’s Pawn episode of The Sweeney, and as Jack, Rose Mellors’s gormless gofer in Minder.

Versatile actor Tony Selby, who has died aged 83, had one of his finest roles as the villain Lyon, in the Queen's Pawn episode of The Sweeney (pictured)

Versatile actor Tony Selby, who has died aged 83, had one of his finest roles as the villain Lyon, in the Queen’s Pawn episode of The Sweeney (pictured)

One scene in Queen’s Pawn sums up the 1970s, the decade that taste forgot. Selby is seen sitting in an avocado bath tub, talking into one of those new-fangled Trimphones.

The Sweeney also gave an early break to John Challis, as Skef Warren, minder to gangster Tony Kirby, played by Peter Vaughan — who went on to be Genial Harry Grout in Porridge.

In that episode — Stay Lucky, Eh? — Skef sports an especially horrible diagonal striped shirt with a collar like the wingspan of Concorde. (I had one like it.)

Challis, 79, one of the nicest men in showbiz, found fame as Boycie in Only Fools. Sadly, he’s just had to cancel his nationwide stage tour because of ill health.

Get well soon, Boycie. Or should that be: Stay Lucky!

Selby is seen sitting in an avocado bath tub, talking into one of those new-fangled Trimphones

Selby is seen sitting in an avocado bath tub, talking into one of those new-fangled Trimphones

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