Tortured back to health by NHS

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Regular readers will be aware that this column is positively evangelical about the NHS.

It has its critics and it is by no means perfect. For instance, some of the waste borders on the criminally negligent.

But ever since yours truly fell off a mountain bike last summer and wound up with a smashed left elbow and wrist and a bunch of scrambled ligaments and frazzled nerves, the NHS performed England’s grizzliest, bloodiest jigsaw puzzle and put it all back together again.

And the bits they couldn’t find, like the radial head in my elbow which more or less turned to shrapnel on impact, they made a new one. And the consultant (somewhere between James Bond and God) fitted it during three-and-half hours of gruelling surgery on the weekend England won the Cricket World Cup.

That particular sporting glory, which seems like a very long time ago now, passed me by in a morphine-induced blur on a ward surrounded by shrieking, dying old men.

To be honest, I’ve had better weekends on my hands and knees, forensically cleaning the Penny Street branch of McDonald’s from top to bottom as a student in the late 1980s.

And physiotherapy is like medieval torture. Having your fingers bent back for 20 minutes and your frozen shoulder pushed and pulled until you see stars and hear a klaxon going off in your head is about as much fun as it sounds. It hurts, it really hurts, but since it began a few weeks ago, my left hand has gone from looking like a club foot with fingers on it to one that looks just like the other one, albeit stiffer and weirdly hairy.

And my world-class physio expertly pulls me this way and that in her vice-like grip twice a week. She’s a walking miracle and I’d happily put my house on her in an arm wrestle against any strongman you’ve ever heard of.

But unlike just about every other country in the world, the NHS doesn’t hand you a bill on the way out that you worry yourself sick about how you’re going to pay. The NHS is comfortably the best thing about this broken, bankrupt, back-to-front, busted flush of a country. We don’t know how lucky we are. Even the food’s not bad.