Looking back on a lifetime of change in the health service

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From: Margaret W Whitaker, Harswell, East Yorkshire.

IF Jeremy Hunt put Paul Muller’s plan (The Yorkshire Post, September 27) into action now, the NHS would be on the right lines at last. In 80 plus years as patient and nurse, I have seen appalling wastage, the trouble caused by managers in the 1980s and the miraculous benefits of transplants, antibiotics and modern drugs.

In the 1930s, a visit from the doctor was an event; I was ensconced in the parental bed while mother arranged special hand towels in the bathroom.

In 1942 I dropped a stink bomb in the school biology laboratory and was nearly expelled. Instead I was locked in the library and made to summarise the Beveridge Report alone for three days and learnt much about Social Security and the folly of bomb dropping.

At the start of the Welfare State, the doctor gave consultations in his private house. You queued from the front gate into the living room and sat in his chairs till your name was called. In the 1950s I had my first child, and the doctor gave me an enormous roll of cotton wool that lasted years, my first encounter with the needless extravagance that accompanies freebies.

In 1959 emigrating to Canada was a shock. My son developed asthma and the cost of treatment and medication was astronomical.

In 1974 I got a Sister’s post in an all-female hospital. Matron wanted me to upgrade a ward so the inmates could be released into the community. By 1980 Matron had retired, managers appeared and morale hit rock bottom. Nurses were treated with such suspicion and lack of appreciation and most of the staff went on nights to escape. However the managers then began paying nightly visits, accusing us of lacing bedtime drinks with Benylin!

Carpets were laid throughout (unsuitable for incontinence) replacing the parquet floors of this former Victorian family mansion which was in any case to be razed to the ground a few years later.

My “girls” were given a house to live in and learnt how to drink Pernod. When visited they were sitting, curtains drawn on a lovely summer day. Neighbours dumped rubbish in their garden and the fridge contained only eggs, milk and margarine.

At the end of the 1980s, money was squandered sending staff on “courses”. I spent three nights in a hotel with nurses from all over Britain to attend “Sex for the Mentally Handicapped” as sex was now the drug of choice for these unfortunates.

Such good fun, but what a waste of money. I rest my case.