Technology is a boon, when you remember your user ID and password. Not being able to get to the surgery in Langport during opening hours to ask for a repeat prescription, I log into a website called Patient Access to order the tablets required after years of eating too many cakes and not enough vegetables. The medication is in very low doses, but I feel that to forget to take it would be to betray the trust of the doctor. The website not only allows me to renew my prescription, it shows me details of any appointments I might have and carries brief medical records. It is hard now to imagine that the National Health Service could function without such technology to assist in its daily administration.
Yet, exist it did, and not only existed, but thrived. People like Dr Ingram seemed to have an extraordinary capacity for caring for large numbers of patients. Dr Ingram had been our family doctor for decades and when my asthma was especially severe he would arrive at our house with his wisdom and his old leather bag. Once he even appeared unexpectedly, peering in through the window to announce his arrival; he had just been passing. Dr Ingram would have time to talk about all sorts, even on horse racing on the television.
Going to the surgery meant a journey to Langport, which is three miles from our village. Once a week, though, a doctor would come to hold a surgery in our village. Lacking a suitable venue, the front parlour of the village pub was used as the consulting room for two hours each Wednesday afternoon.
How did people like Dr Ingram have so much time? Why were we so unhurried? Was the medical practice very small? The National Health Service was but a quarter of a century old, perhaps the demands upon it were less severe. Perhaps people still remembered the days of the bills.
From a medical system filled with a certain rustic charm, we have reached a situation where it is impossible to imagine how a modern Dr Ingram would find a place in the health service. Perhaps we are less healthy than we were, perhaps medical care has become increasingly sophisticated, perhaps bureaucracy has expanded.
It is impossible to imagine what Dr Ingram would have made of the Internet. Perhaps he would have rightly judged that it was no substitute for personal care. Perhaps he would have taken out a cigarette to stand and take time to think about what has happened to the service he served so faithfully.