Yesterday I was fortunate enough to require medical assistance on the very day on which our shambolic Government and the esteemed BMA launched the return of old-fashioned family doctors. In anticipation of the new service, I had been tucked into a Bath chair in a thick plaid dressing gown, with a warm glass of Madeira. I had been told that 'The Doctor' would arrive at 10 O'clock, and at precisely 9.58 I was alerted by the lodge porters that the gentlemen (no more of these silly lady doctors, thank heaven) had just motored through the southern gate, perfectly judging the two minutes that would be required to attain the end of the ornamental drive. I gazed through the open French windows, and was rewarded by the sight of a gleaming 1957 Alvis 3-litre coasting to a halt on the recently raked limestone chippings by the coach house. The glint of the sun off the abundant chrome trimmings, and the majestic row of dials that were momentarily revealed on the walnut dashboard as the doctor extracted his Gladstone bag from the passenger seat, were a tonic in themselves.
After the doctor had been shown into my sick room, and we had greeted each other in first name terms, he accepted a sherry and a cigarette, and for a few minutes we caught up on news of our old school and college chums. His was a vastly reassuring presence, clad in stout tweeds from which arose the mingled odours of iodine, carbolic, gun-dog, cordite, cigars and whiskey. When it came down to business, he took a stained balsa spatula from his beautifully patinated leather case, wiped it on his thigh, and inserted it into my mouth as I did my best to say 'aaaarrrrrggghhh'. His diagnosis was text-book, delivered to the point, with no intelligible details that might cause worry or concern to the patient. I was prescribed two teaspoons of the linctus three times a day, a linseed poultice for the melanoma on my arm, and was ordered to stay in bed for the next six weeks. I felt better already. Thank heaven for the BMA, I thought.
You will readily imagine my disappointment and confusion when, this morning, just a day after being promised the return of 'proper' doctors, I heard the bewildering news that the next president of the Royal College of GPs is to be a woman. Whether this is another blatant U-turn by a shameless Government, or yet more left-hand right-hand administrative blundering, I cannot say, but whatever the cause who can blame the electorate for being cynical and apathetic in the face of such monumental inconsistency? I feel a relapse coming on. Pass the Madeira.