Peter Rhodes on the decline of coal, the NHS at work and a peek inside a beating heart
Read today's column from Peter Rhodes.
How the NHS works. My GP wanted an echocardiogram of my heart (yes, I apparently have one) but, not having the equipment, referred me to another GP about five miles away. A few days later the phone rang and a lad with a Northern accent confirmed the appointment and asked if I knew where the other surgery was. I didn't. “Well, it's just down the road from an Asda,” he explained. “Mind you, I don't know. I'm ringing from Blackpool.”
I have no idea why it takes a private company in Blackpool to fix an NHS appointment 120 miles away in the Midlands. Greater brains than mine, I dare say.
Anyway the echo-thingy was fascinating if only for the terrible silence that descended on the operator as she carried out the scan. I have this private theory that medical staff spend their final training year at drama school. As she gazed stony-faced and silent at the screen, I wondered what horrors she had uncovered, what imminent catastrophe was heralded by these images of what looked less like the eternal organ of love and more like a bit of scrag end pulsating in a jam jar. Is this a heart beatingly perfectly with all the vigour of a man 20 years younger or the terminal decaying shreds of a knackered organ wheezily pumping its last?
The former, you will be pleased to hear. Scan over, the operator smiled broadly and confirmed what I had believed all along. There is no crisis and, with a little luck, I shall live until the day I die. I celebrated in the life-affirming, future-embracing way that men of a certain age always celebrate such moments, by assembling a flat-pack unit from Ikea. Heartily.
Anyway, the day after my echocardiogram, I received an email advert offering me a £500 wrist device to monitor my heartbeat. What an astonishing coincidence.
On February 14 this column asked: “How long will it be before they (Whitehall) announce a date for a total ban on any kind of open fire?” The answer is, hell's teeth, sooner than we thought. A ban on burning coal and wet logs was announced a few days ago and the Government may even consider banning smokeless fuels. No-one denies that the air in our cities is pure poison and the sooner all urban emissions are outlawed, the better. However, there's a world of difference between thousands of flues pumping cancer-causing gunge into the faces of a million city children and a single chimney smoking bravely in some remote rural valley, causing no harm to anyone.
Quick law is usually bad law and this fuel ban would be improved greatly by exempting properties unfortunate enough not to be connected to the gas main. Starting with mine, naturally.