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Independents' Day

Granny knows best

Phil reckons older workers from Eastern Europe can solve a major problem facing the NHS

A-levels and O-levels (or whatever they are called these days) are getting easier. The Government disputes this, and the recent improved A-level results are supposed to demonstrate that today's young people continue to be exponentially smarter than those of us who have gone before, but we all know that this is tosh.

We are raising a generation of bloody fools. We have graduates who can barely read and write.

Even medical students have not escaped the general rot. They are better than the average, admittedly, and we may admire their perseverance (or at least that of their parents) in jumping through the politically correct hoops through which you need to leap to get into medical school now. In my day, three grade Bs and a vague desire to serve the community was enough; now you need a certificate to show three months' voluntary work experience wiping bums in a care home and a note from your GP to confirm you'll drop dead from grief if you're not allowed the chance to become a doctor.

But they are still generally woefully misinformed. I have taught medical students with perfect A-grade exam results who have never heard of Joseph Lister or Nye Bevan, and who think Homer is a yellow cartoon character.

But the problem extends across our entire cultural landscape. My surgery, as is yours, as is every A&E department and walk-in centre in the country, is increasingly clogged with hapless parents who are utterly unable to cope with the most minor ailment in their offspring. Often they phone NHS Direct first, but as those hopeless prats invariably ask 85 irrelevant questions and then suggest they need to see their GP as soon as possible, this doesn't help.

My theory is this: our society suffers from a lack of proper grandmas. Once upon a time, grandmas were wise old birds who had lived though the war and had seen a bit. They knew how to cope with chicken pox and pyrexia and earache, and were an invaluable family resource. Their sage advice would prevent a third of all primary care encounters.

Nowadays, when grandma is 35 years old and likely to be helplessly pissed in A&E at the same time as her grandchildren attend, this leaves a significant gap in our reserves of folk wisdom. All the advice they can impart has been gleaned from Heat magazine, or Trisha on daytime TV. And that advice is invariably to see your GP as soon as possible.

I believe there is an answer, and it lies in Eastern Europe. We already have a plethora of Polish plumbers and builders bailing out our useless tradesmen, and I think they could help us further. Let's import a few hundred thousand Babooshkas and set them up with our idiot natives.

Instead of phoning NHS Direct, our immature parents could phone Olga and ask her advice instead. 'Oy oy oy, don't worry about it,' she could tell them, and billions could be shaved off the NHS budget.

Dr Phil Peverley is a GP in Sunderland and PPA Columnist of the Year 2006

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