Donald MacLeod: It’s time to face reality and start charging for our heroic NHS

Emergency services at the Grenfell Tower site (Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Emergency services at the Grenfell Tower site (Leon Neal/Getty Images)

ANOTHER week, another horrendous human tragedy in London.

This time it was an accidental, but totally avoidable, fire in a tower block which was the cause of so much grief. Terrorism, thankfully, played no part.

Terror, though, did rip through the heart of this great metropolis as Grenfell Tower was consumed by a raging inferno.

When the gates of hell again opened, our over-stretched, under-resourced and underpaid emergency services again heroically rushed in.

Quite how they all do it, time and again, beats me.

But, as with the recent terror attacks, they were there in mere minutes to valiantly do what they could against all the odds.

They answered the call and went to the aid of those in need.

I wonder, given government cuts, especially within the NHS, how long they can keep that up?

Are they at breaking point? Are we nearing a time when they will be unable to respond?

We don’t have enough doctors, nurses or beds to cope with demand now, far less if there is a string of terror attacks or large-scale emergencies.

We know that hospitals are full to bursting and the NHS has been bled dry.

What can be done?

One thing for sure is that I don’t think any one political party can come up with the answer. This is a national problem that should be tackled head-on by us all.

It is ridiculous that, nearly 70 years after the NHS was founded, it hasn’t moved with the times.

The founding principle of free health care for all must be at the heart of a modern NHS.

And it must be protected, especially for those on low incomes.

But for those who are not, and can afford it, charges should be reintroduced, especially for prescriptions.

Fees should also be brought in for out-of-hours visits. Those who make an appointment with their GP and then don’t turn up should be fined – heavily.

Almost 300 appointments a month in my local surgery are missed. Outrageous.

For those who do turn up, needlessly, for a wee runny nose or a grazed knee, well they should be charged too.

As for drunks who, through their own stupidity, injure themselves or someone else and end up in A&E, they should be clattered with the full cost of their medical care and treatment.

Foul-mouthed, violent steamers should have their charges doubled.

As should all those time-wasting buffoons who clog up casualty departments thinking A&E is a social centre for them to let off steam over their wean’s cut fingers or sun-blistered back.

NHS procurement procedures should be overhauled as they are not fit for purpose and millions of tax-payer’s pounds are wasted.

GP surgeries should be open seven days a week and doctors should be prevented from becoming private consultants until they have served at least 10 years in the NHS.

None of these measures or all of them bunched together is a complete cure for the crisis within the NHS, probably more a plaster stuck on an open wound.

But at least it’s something, a start.

At the moment, there is nothing being offered as an alternative, a fix, a solution.

The NHS is being bled dry and could become fatally wounded unless it is given some much needed emergency aid.