I read that, once again, the National Health Service is on the brink of collapse.  Drugs are becoming unaffordable, Accident and Emergency departments are short staffed, junior doctors and overworked and underpaid, nurses are overweight and going back home, and general practitioners are struggling to meet the demands of an ever ageing population.

The latest ‘scandal’ to hit the headlines is the staggering increase in the cost of drugs demanded by the pharmaceutical industry, in some cases increasing life saving drugs such as quetiapine from £1.62 to an eye watering £65, and with the industry running a virtual monopoly on pricing, the government appears to be helpless.  Helpless or not, it’s called racketeering by any other name.

Surely to goodness it’s time to go back to basics and admit that with the ever increasing demands on the Health Service, we need to take some unpalatable decisions.  The first must be whether we can continue offering a health service that is free at the point of delivery.  Whilst this is political anathema to many, it is a step in the right direction, and it should be relatively easy to apply.  Those on income support will still be able to access the service free of charge, but those who can afford it will be required to make a small payment for the privilege of seeing a doctor.  By small I mean £5, or one and a half pints of beer, and if a visit to the doctor helps reduce the consumption of alcohol, so much the better.  There are several countries round the world which impose a modest consultation fee, Australia for one, and the argument that the sick and needy will not seek medical assistance if they have to pay £5 for the privilege is ridiculous.

Secondly, the number of missed appointments is staggering.  In my own rural surgery, they amount to 30% of ‘no shows’.  This is a criminal waste of precious resources, so I propose that if the ‘no show’ wishes to book another appointment, he must pay £10.

Finally, it’s time that the medical profession re-educates itself.  GPs must stop prescribing drugs every time one of their patients breaks wind, and start asking themselves if it is absolutely necessary.  My own case is a case in point.  I went under to repair an aneurysm, a successful operation I am pleased to say, and afterwards I was prescribed statins and pills for my blood pressure.  I asked in a spirit of inquiry how long they were to be prescribed, and to my astonishment, the doctor told me for the rest of my life.  I don’t like taking pills, so I said no, and in return I have a routine test for blood pressure and cholesterol.  That’s all that’s needed, and if either or both are too high, I change my lifestyle and dietary habits.  I don’t know how much I am saving the NHS, but I’m doing my bit.

None of us can live for ever, but it should be our responsibility, not the NHS,  to ensure that we look after our bodies, so that old age is a part of life and not an intolerable burden.


 “I HAD NEVER been into drugs, not even at university, where they were supposed to be freely available. Well, to be strictly accurate, I’d been offered a spliff at a party once, but, like all those people in high places who set such a good example for lesser mortals to follow, I hadn’t actually inhaled; according to my friends in the know, this defeated the object of the exercise.

In my professional capacity, drink and drugs formed a sizeable part of my practice, from yobs in town centres drinking themselves senseless, assuming they had any sense in the first place, to lowlife on dark street corners offering coke, and brown, and hash, and speed, and E’s and anything else that took your fancy. It was very depressing, as it was to the bobbies on the beat who found themselves in the front line, night after night, when they weren’t back at the station filling in forms.”

Reproduced by kind permission of Monday Books from May It Please Your Lordship by Toby Potts.

Banner headline in my newspaper: Make all drug use legal, say experts.  They must be on something! These ‘experts’ are two bodies describing themselves respectively as the Royal Society for Public Health and the Faculty of Public Health.  Question: why do we need two when none will do?  And are they related in any way to that strange woman, I forget her name, who claimed to be the Chief Medical Officer, and who wanted to ban us from drinking?

These experts tell us that an addiction to controlled drugs is the same as an addiction to alcohol or tobacco. “We don’t make a moral judgement on those.”  Don’t we?  Where have these experts been for the past several years?  We have laws banning smoking all all public places, and now all cigarettes are to be sold in plain packets.  We have laws banning drinking and driving, and now, almost all alcoholic beverages carry a ‘drink awareness’ message. In addition, the consumption of alcohol can and should be controlled by the vendors, whether supermarkets or public houses.  They must assume some responsibility in return for the profits they make.

Like Toby Potts, I have never tried any controlled drugs, be they Class A, B or C, but as somebody said, and it may have been me: “You don’t need to feed from the trough to know how pigs live.”   I am wholly convinced of their damaging effects, damaging not just for the user but also for those in their close proximity.  How many times in the recent past have we heard excuses for criminal behaviour blamed on drugs?

Besides making all drugs legal, these ‘cloud cuckoo’ experts suggest that young people should be given more education on the risk of drugs at school.  But these schools, especially inner city ones, are so overcrowded the teachers can’t hear themselves think.  They also call on the NHS to take over responsibility for dealing with addicts.  But the NHS is already in debt to the tune of £2.4 billion, so where is this extra funding coming from?

The fact that, according to some, we are losing the war on drugs doesn’t mean we should simply surrender.  There can be no excuse for the abuse of drugs or alcohol, and if this means the continued enforcement of criminal sanctions, then so be it.  These experts, like so many of their predecessors, simply don’t think it through, and an informed debate on drugs, crime and punishment is cheapened by these silly suggestions.  As for funding, let’s abolish these bodies and invest the money in reducing the NHS crippling debt.

David Osborne is the author of three humorous books on the Law.  His latest, entitled Order in Court, is now available in all reputable bookstores and on Amazon.