I am a passionate supporter of the cornerstone principle of the NHS – that we pay our taxes and don’t have to fret about or fear the cost of being ill, as do so many people in America.
But there are always limits to what the public purse can afford to spend, even in an ideal world.
And successive governments have accepted that we use the resources of the private sector to plug the gaps and increase the capacity of care, without any cost to the NHS patient.
I’m not a user of private health services myself, but I don’t believe it’s wise to look a gift horse in the mouth as and when necessary.
I recently toured the Rutherford Centre, a private cancer centre in Bedlington which serves people in the North East.
Their impressively state of the art and multi-million pound Proton Therapy machine is available for use by the NHS, as are MRI scanners.
I was impressed by both the equipment available and the efforts they make in reassuring nervous young children who are undergoing treatment.
The NHS has some of these machines, but not enough for the demand.
Sometimes we send people to a private facility in Florida that is more expensive, but less convenient and comfortable than the local private unit.
The overriding principle is that NHS patients get the treatment they need when they need it. If that means using the equipment in Bedlington, so be it.
Speed is of the essence in emergencies.