Thanks, Frank

The week before Christmas I was shopping at Sainsbury’s and rather carelessly managed to reverse my car into a wall in the carpark on my way out.  Nothing too horrendous.  A piece of Perspex over a rear light shattered, but the light itself was undamaged.  There were a few minor scratches on the bumper and adjacent paintwork.  I drove immediately round to my garage thinking – such was my naivety – that I might be able to have the Perspex replaced as I waited.  I was happy to touch up the paintwork myself.

Not a bit of it.  Estimate for the work from the body shop – £650.  The Perspex cover alone could not be replaced; it had to be the whole unit – value £200.  Part of the bumper could not be touched up and had to be replaced.

So I phoned my Insurance Company.  Yes they would fund that, minus the excess of £100 but the work would have to be done by a stipulated dealer – in a town 30 miles away.  I phoned them.  Yes they would do that – on January 26th.

Then on Hogmanay Storm Frank came along and blew a cover off a ventilation stack atop my bijou cottage.  I stuck my head up into the loft and could see a rectangle of broad daylight.  I phoned a roofer.  Stoney silence.  I phoned another roofer.  Yes he would be happy to fix that but was overwhelmed with work because of Storm Frank.  He’s going to phone me next week.

Small beer, I hear you say.

Then I read in the paper for the umpteenth time that the hospital managers and the local politicians were very disgruntled with a hospital not a million miles from where I live because their “A & E” (sic) waiting times were once more falling below “target” (sic) in that 93% rather than 95% of their patients had been “seen” (by which they actually mean discharged from the department) within four hours.

You can see where this is going.  No wonder all my medical colleagues are crumbling under the weight of expectation and deserting in droves to Australasia like economic migrants and asylum seekers.  600,000 working days have been lost across the Scottish health service in the last four years because of time taken off work due to staff mental illness.  The total has been increasing each year (86,500 in 2011 rising to almost 180,000 in 2014).

It’s not about to get any better.  The Royal College of General Practitioners last October gave a prize to the best academic paper in primary care.  It was a study, published in The Lancet, of the expectations of a substantial population (4,000+) of patients with regard to their perception of the level of risk at which they would wish to be investigated for a diagnosis of cancer.  If their risk of having a cancer (based on their clinical presentation) was 10%, would they wish to be investigated?  5%?  1%?

The overwhelming majority said they wished to be investigated at a level of risk of 1%.

I wonder if they were offered statistical advice about what this meant.  How many times would you need to be investigated (or, if you will, how many times would you need to attend a hospital out-patient clinic) before your 1% cancer risk became greater than 50%?

Answer:  70 times.

I like to think I’m a glass half full person.  If I have a 1% risk of developing a cancer, then I have a 99% risk of not developing it.   I’ll take my chances, thanks.  I’ve got higher priorities.  Like fixing the leak in my roof.

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