God is a DJ so the song goes, not so in Bighospital where God is the NHS. The faith that patients and their relatives place in my colleagues, in me and in the institution is exactly that, blind faith. I have lost count of the number of times people have said “I know that we are in the best hands” when in fact they don’t know this at all. Sometimes they are in far from the best hands and if only they had perforated their colon yesterday when the Professor of colorectal surgery was on call they would be in with a much better chance of coming out of this alive.
Nobody questions us though, they don’t ask if we have done lots of these, they assume we are the best person for the job. They nod and agree when I tell them that their father won’t survive an operation or that I must operate immediately on their pregnant wife. Like the Catholic faithful they accept that this is the word and thanks be to God and the NHS.
I wouldn’t be so accepting, so gratefully unquestioning. My only experience with the NHS as a patient is having children and I was under the best obstetrician in the hospital (as all doctors in Bighospital are) not that he was there when they were hauled out or flew out of me; that was the midwives and a nervous registrar on call for the one that needed some help. However, if I had been for an elective caesarean he would have been my choice.
Not many priests encourage their congregation to question the faith, but that is what patients should do if they want the best and most appropriate care for themselves.