Then came medical school.
And not just ANY old medical school, but this one. In a city whose health services are going bonkers due to obviously well-planned and well-thought-out (sic) NHS reforms.
So in all my bright-eyed innocence, I decided to play medical student and go tug on a few white coats to ask them what they thought of all this nonsense. The first I pounced upon was Dr Simon Lockett, an alumnus of Jesus College who agreed to come up to deliver a talk to medical students. Sitting in the lecture theatre, I was looking for a shrewd but kindly-looking genial man in a white coat to show up and tell us all about how he's looked after hundreds of families and watched patients grow old. So I was mildly surprised when a man whose face was half-obscured by a thick moustache reminiscent of Mark Twain walked up to the podium and, in exactly the kind genial voice I'd imagined him to speak with, told us all about his adventures as a General Practitioner.
As it turns out, Dr Simon Lockett is no run-of-the-mill GP. He is Secretary of the BMA's Norfolk committee for GPs, and has been involved in medical politics for some time. When the panicked coffer-fillers at Castle Spewitt, the Evil Headquarters of NHS Management, sprung upon the brilliant idea to cut costs by denying operations to heavy smokers, Dr Lockett was one of the GPs who spoke out against it. He is mentioned near the bottom of this article in the Times. Unfortunately, we all know that GPs are only useful as grunts and scapegoats, and as such have no political say. I decided to quiz Dr Lockett on a few on the issues that have bugged Dr Crippen and other medical bloggers.
(For the benefit of the reader, any quotes from Dr Lockett have been put through my patented DeMoustachifier(TM) so that they, unlike when I first heard them, are immediately coherent to the reader.)
On being able to perform minor surgeries: Like many GPs (and by this I mean the GPs who do not have scalpel-happy tendencies and deep-rooted regrets at not having gone into surgery instead) Dr Lockett is amazed that policymakers actually believe GPs do not have enough on their hands already and spend their free time sipping tea and discussing the latest episode of EastEnders in the clinic lounge. He attributes this to most policymakers' experience of actual doctors' schedules coming solely from watching extremely accurate and authoritative medical shows like Doctor Who.
On the current management of the NHS: Dr Lockett agrees with me that the NHS, the one-of-a-kind healthcare system in one of the greatest countries in the world, is being run by a group of rabid baboons in a doughnut shop with John Prescott.
On Nurse Practitioners being on A&E front lines: The moustache shakes sadly from side to side. Having gotten into trouble enough times to develop a Spider-Man-like sense of When Not To Ask Because You Really Don't Want To Know, I decide to skip to the next question.
On the real source of the NHS financial woes: Here Dr Lockett, having had his share of the politics involved, hesitates to be overly critical. He is very generous and hmmms his way through most of his reply, saying things about how the policymakers never really had time to properly test any of the reforms before they were put into action, and as such they were hurried through. He looks at me with a knowing smile, and I know that he is silently agreeing with me that the NHS reforms were dreamt up by a 5-year-old child dosed up on crack. He suggests that the financial deficits were simply because not enough money has been put into the NHS. Patsy Hewitt, eager to deflect any blame from herself that might spoil her well-polished and professionally-scrubbed white-toothed smile, has pointed the finger at mismanagement of funds. Remember that the next time you're at your local hospital and you see a consultant drive up an hour late in a brand-new Mercedes SLR. And you wonder. *X-Files ending theme plays*
And there we have it, folks. Straight from the workhorse's mouth. Dr Lockett, despite being someone who has seen the NHS fall apart from the inside (apart, of course, from the times when he was lax enough with his trimming to allow the moustache to actually impede his vision) comes off as a very cheery fellow, still happy enough to enjoy his job, dot his consultation room with Doctor Who memorabilia, and hand furry Daleks to his patients to stop them crying. I wonder what sort of a doctor I'll make when I grow up. For some reason this comes to mind:
I can't imagine why.
P.S. To all those who sat for the Cambridge BMAT exam, good luck! Hope it went well, and that your urinary sphincters were stronger in the exam hall than mine was. Email me your tales of woe at angrymedic [at] gmail [dot] com.