My late father in law used to love coming on holiday with us to Frigiliana, but would never have wanted to move out permanently because he was worried about health care. And before we moved here ourselves it was not uncommon for people we knew who clearly perceived us to be 'of advancing years' to ask how we would feel if we needed medical treatment in Spain. Well, let me set your minds at rest with a couple of personal examples.
Because I have two separate chronic conditions I need regular, daily medication. Both conditions are stable and so my prescription doesn't change. This enables my doctor to write an annual prescription which is stored on my computerised medical records. I have a compact plastic card with an electronic chip. Whenever I am running short I drop into a handy pharmacy - it can be anywhere in Andalucía - and hand my card to the assistant who places it into a reader and dispenses my next allocation of whichever drug it is that I need. And the drugs are free because of my age.
I also need to have an annual blood test, which was due round about now. So on Tuesday morning about 10 o'clock I dropped into the local health centre in the village and asked the receptionist for an appointment with my doctor. She gave me an appointment for midday that same day. My doctor issued the necessary form for a fasting blood test, and on the way out I spoke to the receptionist again, who booked me an appointment with the nurse for 9 o'clock the following morning; in fact as I walked out of the health centre on Wednesday morning, the church clock was just striking nine! So from request for an appointment to completed test, twenty three hours.
Mr Lansley, before proceeding with your wholesale shake up of the NHS might I suggest you come out here and spend some time finding out how this level of service is achieved in Spain; then on the way back, you might have a chat with the French authorities. There was absolutely no comparison between the treatment my brother received in a French hospital during his final days and what I saw delivered by UK hospitals before coming here.