The Big Eye, September 29

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We all have things in our lives we regard as ‘constants’. The sun comes up every morning, it rains on Bank Holidays and toast always falls butter-side down. And if you’re told by your Doctor he’s making you an appointment at Addenbrooke’s you know with certainty that you’ve got something tricky but you also know you’re in good hands at this centre of excellence. For me it has always been a comfort having both Addenbrooke’s and Papworth in our neck of the woods, but times change. For most of us, the news that our beloved and trusted bastion of medical skill and care has gone the way of all things pertaining to the floundering NHS is a shock and a huge worry. I know that for many, the care afforded by the big hospital in Cambridge is as effective as it ever was but to be told by the hospital inspectors that it is to be immediately put into special measures as the direct result of serious staff shortages is something we never thought we’d hear.

The senior man at the hospital has cut and run like a coward before the report was revealed leaving behind a crestfallen team of managers who have the unenviable task of trotting out the usual hackneyed phrases about being mortified and determined and resolute and prepared to turn the hospital around.

But whatever the reason for this failure, and it is notable that they never directly blamed the government for lack of funding, our faith in this institution has been tested and however hard they try to get her back on track, this old girl has now got herself a reputation. And as they say “reputation arrives on foot and departs on horseback”.

The longer term plan for Papworth Heart Hospital was to ‘up sticks’ from its currently almost unique setting out of town and relocate to the Addenbrooke’s site in due course but I guess it might wish for a chance to retain its independence rather than risk being tarnished by association with the struggling hospital. We shall see!

Another ‘constant’ has bitten the dust after it was revealed that the old adage “an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure” is a lie when it comes to middle-age health checks. According to the NHS, every five years or so, your GP is supposed to offer you a ‘Midlife MoT’. But it seems the cost of these checks is outweighing their arguably dubious benefits. Government accountants have crunched the numbers it is apparent that this seemingly futile initiative is costing the taxpayer about £450m a year. This exorbitant figure is, it seems, far too much when you consider that only a piffling 1,000 lives a year are saved by this financial idiocy and in addition only a handful of us (about 5,600 souls) will be spared the annoyance of Type 2 diabetes or heart attacks and 
strokes. Seems like a total ‘no-brainer’ to me! Any thoughts?