Phil Hammond MD

Why is the press so down on the NHS? Most patients sing their doctor's praises (for a jar of marmalade)
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Indy Lifestyle Online
All doctors are wonderful. The NHS is marvellous. Patients get brilliant treatment. I love Gerald Malone. No, I've not had a personality transplant but I am having second thoughts about this column. It was Arthur Scargill who got me thinking. I was flicking through my back issues of New Socialist when I chanced upon this quote of his: "What the media present as news is not news at all but pure, unadulterated bias. News presents a digest of what's going on. In order to achieve balance it must reflect all the elements comprising that phenomenon called truth. You won't find them reported by the BBC or ITN." Is Arthur right? Every year, the NHS is slagged off more than any other institution by the media, and yet household surveys always find most people are happy with the service and that doctors are way ahead of the field in the "trust and respect" league table. Journalists alas, languish near the bottom, sandwiched between politicians and dog poo. When I see patients, I'm happy and positive and things usually go fairly well but when I write about medicine, I'm a flippant ginger nihilist. Why is this?

And it's not just me. For want of something better to do, I've surveyed all the health headlines in all the newspapers I could find for a random week this year (January 8-15) and divided them into negative and positive. To the untutored eye, this may seem like an incredibly lazy way of filling a page - the kind of column someone might write if he'd just moved house and the baby wasn't sleeping well - but read on and you'll be amazed at just how crap the NHS is through the eyes of medical journalists.

Negative headlines:

Leave us alone

Deaths put spotlight on pressures facing NHS

Embarrassed regional health chief keeps his job

Patients suffering

Crisis of care

Cutback fears

Don't drive a stake through the NHS Mr Dorrell

Britain living on diet of half-truths

Boy, 15, dies of meningitis

Nurse told home-visit racism is legal

Warning on advance of cell biology

Bug fear hits sales of beef

Black nurse loses claim on race bias

NHS accused over mentally-ill killers

Pensioner loses home fight

Hospital bed crisis will get worse, warns Labour

Extra 1,500 died in cold at Christmas

Chained night and day: the prisoner with HIV

NHS swamped with elderly who can't afford to keep warm

Hospital runs out of meningitis vaccine

Community care: ministers blamed

Health warning: do not get ill

Vaccine runs out after mass meningitis jabs

Stay away plea on "brain bug" hospital

Women miss out on cancer test

Health alert over bacteria that resist drugs

Psychiatrists quit over risks to patients

Psychiatric beds under siege from all sides

Community-care patient found dead after killing mum

OAPs face care grants ban

Document fuels fears over bed shortage

Brain illness kills city baby

Doctors demand new security from attack

Gridlock in secure beds adds to crisis on the wards

Op cancelled by lecture-tour surgeon

Fertility clinic set to destroy 3,000 orphan embryos

Meningitis strikes 12-week-old baby

"Killer bug" fear on wards

Dentists: are they putting profitability before patients?

Hospital struggles to meet dialysis need

Acne drug blamed for two deaths

Private health hits NHS

Psychiatric ward close to despair

Complaints about NHS trusts top 100,000

Kidney patient given cancerous transplant

NHS managers up 400 per cent on 1989

Positive headlines:

Pensioners block meal price rises

Snake venom offers hope of thrombosis cure

Murders by mentally ill "show no increase"

Cast your mind back. Does this reflect your experience of the NHS in the week January 8-15? I sincerely hope not, or it isn't worth saving. I keep a diary and you'll be pleased to hear that there were plenty of positive NHS experiences that week which somehow evaded the media. For example, doctor freezes wart (successfully). Woman with flu gets better without antibiotics. Doctor receives jar of marmalade from grateful patient (see wart story). Doctor gives jar of marmalade to receptionist for good service. Wonderful stories like these of triumph over adversity and the generosity of human spirit occur in surgeries up and down the country every day. And do we ever hear about them? If something good has happened to you at the doctor's, write to Dr Phil. There's a jar of marmalade (slightly opened) for the best entry.

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