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Why I love the NHS even more than ever

Posted on 17 May 2010 | 6:05pm

Despite a bit of post-general anaesthetic wooziness, nasal oozings of various colours (so what if it is too much detail?), and a big bandage that made the neighbours ask if I have had a nose job,  I can’t let the day go by without a blog thanking the doctors, nurses, anaesthetists, caterers and administrators who got me in and out for a nose operation within a day.

There is something very special about the NHS, which is why decent Americans are so jealous of it, right-wing ideologues (ring a bell?) so wrong not to get it, and British people so fiercely proud of it.

I had the same operation almost 20 years ago, and back then, I was kept in for a while, and had to endure bandages packed into each nostril for a few days.

I’m not saying the NHS improvements since then are all down to a Labour government which believes in the NHS and has invested properly in it. But that government hasn’t half made a difference.

Anyway, enough of the politics – I just want to make a straight-forward thanks to Mr Quiney, the surgeon at the Royal National Throat Nose and Ear hospital near King’s Cross; the anaesthetist Dr Marks, Ivy, Kofi, and all the other nurses, the catering people – best omelette I have ever tasted – the porters, administrators and everyone else who makes something like a polypectomy take place.

When Fiona and Rory came to pick me up, I asked them to bring ten books of The Blair Years to sign and leave as thanks to the doctors, nurses etc. It turned out I had underestimated how many people had actually been in theatre when I was conked out, so Ivy has just been on asking for a few more. On the way, you wonderful people.

Oh ok, one more political point – just before May 1997, we said Labour would save the NHS. I think we did.

On the radio on the way home, George Osborne was warning of deeper public service cuts than feared, with the oldest trick in the book – claims that the finances are worse than feared – and billboards out of the car window were  proclaiming the Clamberon plan to pack the Lords with their donors, old schoolchums, hunting pals and the like. Very old politics, Nick.

Fill the Lords with Ivys, I say. If it has to exist that is.

** Buy The Blair Years online and raise cash for Labour

  • zeireen

    if it wasn’t 4 labour ithink the country would be a disaster to be honest. so grateful to the nhs. hope ur operation went fine and that ur ok x

  • Steve Lindsey

    “pack the Lords with their donors” ?

    Well we did leave it there for them to play with, didn’t we.

  • judith haire

    And in the blink of an eye, you’re back! Hope you’re soon 100%. No photos of the bandage please

  • Julie


    I loved reading your book and have ‘Prelude to Power’ on order from Amazon. I think your contribution to the Labour Party since 1997, and probably before that but it is not as well documented, has been tremendous. I read your blog every day and follow you on twitter, (one step away from stalking I know). But…do you think that might have been a tiny bit presumptious to assume they wanted to read your book? When I had my hip replaced just over a year ago, (after waiting only 6 months, getting one of the most experienced surgeons in the country to do it and receiving amazing after care), two tins of Cadbury’s Heroes went down a treat.

    Keep up the good work


  • Harold R.Chorney

    The NHS and everything else worthwhile in Britain are now in danger because of the mindless deficit hysteria that now grips the coalition government . The FT recently published a much shortened version of the letter that I reproduce below which shows from the British Office for National Statistics data that despite the cries of politicians the debt to GDP is nowhere near its historic highs over the past century. this by the way is also true of the deficit which was far greater during the war as a percentage of the GDP than now. This sort of historical blindness plus the cynical and foolishly self damaging comparision of Britain to Greece that the new Chancellor is using in his press conference needs to be challenged by Labour spokesman asap.

    I have seen this sort of propaganda campaign undertaken in Canada and, unless challenged quickly with hard historical facts and good analysis of the many options available to the government and the Bank of England to manage the debt and interest rates sensibly without resort to panic, it leads to mass brainwashing over this complex but crucial issue.

    Dear editor:

    The current controversy over the national debt in Britain is often totally ahistorical. Fortunately, the British Office for National Statistics has excellent historical data on the national debt going all the way back to 1855. I reproduce a portion of that data courtesy of them to drive home the point that the current hysteria over debt levels in the UK and elsewhere is absolutely misguided and quite simply reveals historical ignorance at work. The current ratio of the public sector net debt to GDP in the UK is under 55 %. Is this ratio somehow a disaster ?

    The answer must be clearly no when we compare it to the historical data since 1916. This ratio of debt to the GDP has been as much as 4.5 times larger in recent British history in 1946. it was also much larger during the 1920s and thirties. (editor please publish the table so people can actually see the data that substantiates the argument)

    UK national debt to GDP 1916 to 1998

    Year U.K. National Debt as % of GDP

    1916 61 %
    1917 90
    1918 114
    1919 136
    1920 133
    1921 150
    1922 170
    1923 180
    1924 176
    1925 167
    1926 175
    1927 167
    1928 165
    1929 162
    1930 162
    1931 173
    1932 177
    1933 183
    1934 177
    1935 168
    1936 162
    1937 150
    1938 147
    1939 141
    1940 121
    1941 131
    1942 149
    1943 168
    1944 194
    1945 232
    1946 252
    1947 245
    1948 217
    1949 201
    1950 197
    1951 178
    1952 164
    1953 154
    1954 149
    1955 141
    1956 134
    1957 126
    1958 121
    1959 117
    1960 110
    1961 106
    1962 103
    1963 101
    1964 93
    1965 87
    1966 84
    1967 81
    1968 81
    1969 74
    1970 67
    1971 60
    1972 58
    1973 52
    1974 50
    1975 46
    1976 47
    1977 48
    1978 49
    1979 46
    1980 43
    1981 46
    1982 44
    1983 43
    1982 45
    1983 43
    1984 45
    1985 46
    1986 44
    1987 46
    1988 44
    1989 39
    1990 35
    1991 35
    1992 36
    1993 40
    1994 46
    1995 50
    1996 52
    1997 53
    1998 50

    Source: British Office of National Statistics No12_V2pdf

    Yours sincerely,

    Harold R. Chorney
    Professor of Political Economy
    Graduate program in public policy
    Concordia university, Montréal, H3G1M8

  • Jo Curry

    Nose operation – have you been having another “discussion” with Adam Boulton?

  • Jack Stone

    I have several long term conditions and use the NHS regularly because of that and you are totally right about what you say about the NHS. It as its problems and there is waste in the service but everytime I go to my local hospital I marval not just at the skill and the dedication of the people there but there care and compassion.The ideals of people there of trying to help others and care for those in need are surely the ideals we should all have to one another.
    Perhaps that is where labour went wrong in recent years and lost support it forgot those ideals. it forgot that at the end of the day its all about people.About looking after the needs of those in need asnd needing help.Labour need to rediscover the ideals of those working in the NHS for themselves.
    Hope you get better soon.

  • Helen, N16

    Had the exact same op, with the same Mr Quiney, at the same hospital. Agree 100% with you. Even a cup of tea was on hand when they pulled those bandages out – the worst part! The tea was most welcome to stabilise the shaky legs…

  • Patrick James

    I think we love the NHS because we believe that in matters of health people should be treated as equals, they should get the best care regardless of income. We don’t believe that healthcare should be left to market forces.

  • Harold R. Chorney

    P.S. A speedy recovery to you !

  • Filiz

    Oldest trick in the book? NuLabour couldn’t use the finances being in a terrible state in 97, because they weren’t, but up till a week before the election one of your politicians used the ‘we inherited’ regards the NHS. Yes, I remember the NHS being on its knees and leaking roofs in schools. Brown did pour vast amounts into these services but mostly in the wrong places. Last year 4000 nurses recruited and 5000 managers. The true extent of the public debt is still to be exposed, once we know what the PFI schemes have cost us, PFI debts that were kept off the books. And they don’t just stop with the NHS or schools, my local authority changed our street lamp posts under the PFI scheme, lamp posts which didn’t even need changing and then ended up being one of the authorities to lose the most in the Icelantic bank!

    Keep well and hope you recover from your surgery.


    Just answer the one question at the end:

    There is something very special about the NHS, which is why decent Americans are so jealous of it, right-wing ideologues (ring a bell?) so wrong not to get it, and British people so fiercely proud of it

    Was (is) George W., the erstwhile bum chum of your erstwhile boss, one of these?

  • Fiona

    Alastair, so pleased it went well for you today and I can only echo the sentiments you have already voiced about the NHS. I have had the misfortune of being admitted to my local hospital several times in the last few years and I have seen the difference for myself.

    Labour will always be champion of the NHS in my book and of many others that been in a similar position to myself seeing the changes being made.

    We have every right to be proud of our NHS and I just shudder to think what state it will be in when Labour next picks up the reins.

    Wishing you a speedy recovery.

  • sanpietro

    Couldn’t agree more about the NHS. I’ve been singing its praises since my cancer adventure started in 2004. Can’t imagine why anyone would want to go private.

  • Stroller

    Re packing the Lords, you surely can’t complain when NuLab have been doing exactly the same thing for the last 13 years. Have you completely forgotten the ‘cash for honours’ scandal ? I’ll let you off as it may be down to the anaesthetic. The way all parties dish out places in the Lords it must be well over-capacity – probably coming up to exceeding Burnley’s average home gate.

  • paul

    i know its old news now but still felt the need to contact you and say WELL DONE and thank you for actually putting the arse licking right wing biased press of this country in its place ref your spat with adam boulton.
    my own opinion is that the press seemed to have over looked the facts that despite coming out of one of the most vicious recessions in living memory, a labour vote going into reverse and an utterly biased press cameron could still not command an overall majority. i think under any other cicumstance camerons performance would have come under more scrutiny but as he is their golden boy he has escaped questioning of the tories poor performance. personally i give this particular shotgun marriage 18 months at best.

    good luck for the future and long may you continue to rattle the right wing slavish press



    I despise adam boulton I really do. What an embarrasing display. we had every right constitutionally to stay in the game at the point. a balanced view? give me a break. they have ashcroft and murdoch and still couldnt break us 97 style. well done alistair. i loved the first book. superb. look forward to the next one. your not bad for a burnley fan.

  • Mark Woodburn

    I would like to say well done to you Alistair for putting that man Bolton in his place. It seems to be the way of modern media when interviweing politicians regardless of their allegiance in an abusive and insulting manner ala Paxman/Bolton but the politico just has to take it. Well Alistair youmcertainly nailed this guy beautifully. The restraint you showed was incredible. I would aloi like to say than you for all you have done over the last 15 years, as someone who grew up during the Thatcher era,the way you, Tony and the others almost destroyed the Tory party to such an extent that they now appear finished as a credible ruling party outright, having to rely on coalition politics.Thanks again Alistair and good luck in whatever you do.

  • kert


    do you think cameron will try to create a one nation party when will the lib-dem left form a splinter group and leave the goverment sooner than later i hope

  • HF

    Umm wasn’t it Tony Blair who established the precedent by making 357 new life peers to reflect the composition of the commons and get his legislation through. I think it just reflects the fact that we need an elected house of lords-something which Labour should have established in its first term of office!

    But I agree that labour made much needed investment into the NHS, and I’m glad your experience of it was good. I’d be interested to know if you have experience of the mental health side of the NHS which is said to struggle much more with underinvestment being so much less visible.

  • Trevor Malcolm Portsmouth Hampshire



    Your blog, “Abit of ENT on the NHS” (May 17, 2010) left me bewildered. My attempts to identify ladies with Tory name structures, including double-barrelled hyphenated surnames, by their initials alone, left me stumped. EN-T? That rang no bells, sir

    Then, to discover these mystery blondes eagerly awaiting Mr Campbell’s arrival at an NHS hospital, left me incensed

    A London audiology department, no less, often perceived by NHS managers as a specialism even more unglamorous – and therefore underfunded and neglected – than mental healthcare provision, welcomes a famous novelist’s nose for surgical treatment. Yours, all set for abit of ENT, as you claim …

    Still, some of us just loathe abbreviational acronyms. Those we can’t decipher, especially. Take “SURE” – good example. Stands for Service Users Recovery Enterprise, Maudsley Hospital, London. Yet another sector “rich” in acronyms, but skint on financial resources and research talent

    Those of us who need such stuff spelt out and explained, naturally appear thick, ignorant and ill-educated. Same as me, then

    For instance, as soon as your Facebook friend, Sam Tolley, the tireless Well-Being Activist, reported that TM, Transcendental Meditation, might reduce symptoms of clinical depression, (according to two new studies from, I couldn’t wait to overhear medical students claim “they enjoy studying TM at college”

    That would make anyone with the initials TM (like me, for instance) strut around feeling pompous, arrogant and overwhelmingly self-righteous. Abit like a peacock. And, in my case, even more so, than usual

    Even schoolkids are studying TM, these days? Woweee, such joy in education: but those little darlin’s will never learn nuffinck from the likes of this TM. Sorry, Teacher

    Wiser if thoughtful parents consider christening their offspring with names more appropriate for when the little brats grow older. Grow into “Dave’s” hoodies to hug, with honourable ASBO awards to cherish

    And then they also grow up to discover what adult life really consists of

    That means babies need initials that spell out SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) TAT (Tired All the Time syndrome – chronic fatigue) GAD (Generalised Anxiety Disorder) CPN (Community Psychiatric Nurse) …

    Today, Mr Campbell’s ENT – yep, all those Ears, Noses and Throats at the hospital, that’s where they gather. Abit of loud-nerve tinnitus, perhaps? Then, please head for NHS Audiology, complete with both ears. That’ll cure ‘em, I bet

    But mind your wooziness and double-vision, as you go along there, else you’ll topple over, like some tipsy TDC (Thoroughly Disinhibited Client) and end up at the BACK of the NHS queue

    Only on rare occasions – as when one eavesdrops on sweet Fiona (Millar) confiding that her partner “ … talks through his nose, cos my Alastair’s mouth’s long since worn out” – only then, do we appreciate how preciously these God’s bodily gadgets serve us, even us unworthy, take-it-for-granted Atheists

    Fiddly anatomical bits like noses, minds, ears, brains and throat bits

    Finally, hands up, girls, who’s got ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts) and needs CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) – ahha, that’s reputed to stop your pesky ANTs colonising between your ears, right?

    Yes, and these are the ideal initials you want medical students to affix to their briefcases and laptops. Status symbols, gold-embossed

    I once nodded off on the train. Door slammed and woke me up. Next thing I know, chap sat opposite me, his briefcase boasted the gold initials G-O-D

    A shame that rendered me lost for words, because I’d got questions I wanted Him to answer for me, that Sunday after Church, see?

    But, because he had no dog-collar, no crucifix, just a briefcase and a copy of Saturday’s Daily Mail, I consoled my missed opportunity in silence, then sulked

    Besides, train passengers don’t half irritate GOD – especially if he’s a Scotsman named “Gordon of Dunfermaline”

    G-O-D, geddit?

    TM ——————–


  • Raza

    Labour did save the NHS. That’s undisputed.

    I think that should have been homed-in more in the election campaign. People needed to be told the Labour record on the NHS and the Tory record. A lot of this is down to the efforts of Gordon Brown (Blair was more interested in foreign endeavours with George Bush) so it should have been highlighted. In this campaign the Labour record was not talked about enough and the abysmal Tory record was not attacked enough. Not many people can do this better than Gordon Brown, both in terms of rolling the facts of his tongue and also doing it with so much passion.

    Many younger people do not know what the Tories are about because they never lived under the dreadful Tory era.

    If the Tories were in, I don’t think Alastair would have had such a smooth day. In fact you might have had to pay for it!

  • Raza

    I just made a post and it is not showing?

  • Brian Tomkinson

    Labour has been in office for 13 years therefore the economic legacy is down to their mismanagement and no one else. You are trying to play the oldest trick in the book by somehow pretending that it was nothing to do with your chums. I don’t suppose you appreciated Liam Byrne’s sardonic note that your lot managed to run out of money. He probably laughed as he wrote it but at least it had the quality of truth about it and Labour will never be allowed to forget it despite your best endeavours to spin otherwise.

  • Chris lancashire

    So Cameron and Clegg plan to pack the House of Lords with their pals? Now who could they have learned that trick from? Tony Blair perhaps? But now, of course, it’s soooo old politics.

  • Viviane King

    All the best for a speedy recovery!

    Cherish the NHS. We have a passable system in Australia but the waiting lists for public hospitals would make your eyes water. We also don’t get free the things you take for granted – medicines, GP visits etc. Enjoy it while it lasts in its current form.

  • Claire

    All best wishes for a speedy recovery. No argument that the NHS is drastically improved, but, on that matter so close to your (and my) heart, mental health care is not something about which we can feel universally proud. Too much reliance on heavy duty meds, not enough on ‘talking therapy’. Even cost questions don’t come into this one.

  • Julie

    Dear Alastair,

    I follow your blog every day, I think that what you have done for the labour party over the last 10 years, (and probably before, only that is not as well documented), is nothing short of brilliant, I follow you on twitter, (am I starting to sound like a stalker yet?), I have read the Blair Years and have ‘Prelude to Power’ on order from Amazon. However, do you not think it was a tiny bit presumptious to offer the NHS staff a copy of your book each? When I had my hip replaced a year ago, (for which I waited only 6 months, it was done by one of the top surgeons in the country and the after care was fantastic), I found that two boxes of Cadbury’s Heroes went down a treat.

    Keep up the good work

    Julie x