‘Through the K hole’ imagines a dark future in which the NHS treatment lottery has been taken to its logical conclusion
He pulled up his lapels and ran headlong through the rain. The district had become a Meccano maze of neon lights, industrial units and cramped over-crowded tenement blocks. As he glanced upwards he saw that thick filaments of steel ran from one side of the street to the other and swayed like tendrils of seaweed in the tide. At street level though the roads were quickly emptying of people.
One of the automated police vehicles rolled past and he pressed his back up tight against the wall. Luckily for him it swung down a side road on its pre-programmed course, infrared cameras sweeping the dark corners of the ghetto as it hunted for the few stragglers who were in breach of the curfew. As its top half rotated round he noticed a klaxon hidden beneath a wire mesh clawing out Government approved messages in its vulture-voice.
Once inside, safe from the constant rain, he shrugged off his raincoat and huddled with his family around a thin holographic screen. The state-sponsored programmes and advertisements came on. They announced that productivity in their sector had increased for the third consecutive year, and offered a firm assurance that the Government’s five year plan would guarantee a bright future for each and every citizen.
Tonight was different – everyone had tuned in because something special was going to happen.
Over the past several decades the funding for sections of the National Health Service had been rescinded. It started with fertility treatment and cosmetic surgery and was supported by doctors. It then spread to obesity clinics, alcohol and drug services and non-emergency surgery. By the beginning of the new millennia, the population was so aged that a cap was placed on geriatric services and one by one, like the layers of an onion, health services had been peeled back. More and more people became ineligible for their health care, the reasons and explanations grew and the klaxons blazoned out the static-filled excuses.
Society had reached saturation point, and each year it could only afford to treat a single family. Tonight, in front of an enraptured public, they would announce who that family would be.
In the darkness, streaked by the blue and red light of a passing police vehicle, they held tightly onto their tickets and prayed that it would be them.
Written in response to: Patients denied IVF treatment by cash-strapped PCTs. Dr Kevin Hinkley is a GP in Aberdeen.
Click here for more from Through the K hole Through the K hole – credit HaPe Gera, Flickr