Center Parcs – the bastion of the modern family holiday – and a place I have resisted going to for almost seven years.
I hope I‘m wrong
We finally succumbed this weekend. The kids were excited because all their friends have been. I just wanted to know if it was worth the hefty amount I had to cough up.
Your basic package includes a perfectly reasonable location, adequate beds and bathrooms. No frills, but adequate. It’s a bit dodgy round the edges (remote control on the blink; only one bin liner). But, you do get endless, unrestricted access (to the swimming pool).
Of course the pool gets pretty crowded, and after a few days it all starts to pall. The kids are starting to nag. ‘Can we go there instead, Mummy? I want to do that!’ So you gaze at the people staying in the luxury treehouses, riding their electric bikes and Segways, playing badminton and dining out for every meal. You think, ‘Wow! Maybe one day, when I’m really rich, I’ll be able to afford that’.
Hence, you compromise. You pick and choose based on what you can afford. You can’t have everything. Certainly not when they’re charging London prices for drinks…
At it all smacks of the current state of the health service. Your swimming pool and accommodation is part of the deal. That’s your basic GP care provided with no limits, but only what the system can manage, when it can manage.
Whereas if you want frills, then it costs. You could get some logs and marshmallows for the fire as a little extra. That’s a daytime appointment at a time that suits you. You could have dinner out once or twice. That’s an evening or weekend appointment. But, you’ve guessed it – that costs too.
You could do archery, or hire a bike. That’s a private X-ray or scan. You could go for a spa session. Usually just the once. That’s a private consultant appointment. Beyond the reach of most, and you smell of lavender oil for days.
We don’t expect Centre Parcs to be giving all this away as part of the deal, and it is becoming clear that the NHS can’t either.
No more money is coming in. In case you hadn’t realised, the Treasury and the Prime Minister are entirely unsympathetic. We’re being forced to pare back to the bone, and then some more, in order to keep the service afloat.
So what option do we have other than to go down the Center Parcs route and charge for those extras we can’t afford? It may not be fair but it’s a reality that goes beyond the ‘should we?’ debate. In an ideal world, there’d be free gold-standard care for all. But that’s not going to happen.
Of course, if we do take this route, it will be those ‘greedy’ doctors and nurses doing it, not the Government. But if the current crisis isn’t motivating ministers, then the complete collapse of the NHS won’t either.
Do we wait until even the basics start to fail, like no intensive care beds for children or a town with no GPs at all? Do we allow the vulnerable to suffer more delays without at least looking at the next-best option?
This isn’t the NHS I want, but I feel the decisions are made and now all we face is Hobson’s choice. I hope I‘m wrong.
Dr Zoe Norris is a GP in Hull. You can follow her on Twitter @dr_zo