Pug puppy and French Bulldog puppy, 8 weeks old, hugging in front of white background

“My firm advice to Mr Hancock is to buy a dog”


September 1st  invariably marks a sudden change from Summer to Autumn. “You say that every year” chorus the family, collectively rolling their eyes. At least they did when I used to share this observation with them. Increasingly these days, I find myself talking aloud to me or the dog. On our morning walkies, the dog at least has the good grace to take my reflections with commendable equanimity. I keep answering me back which can become tiresome and unproductive.


Enjoying our morning wander around what is unquestionably London’s finest green space, Tooting Common, there was a very noticeable difference in the air today. The sunlight was watery, the air heavy, damp and slightly smoky. For the first time this season, a knee-high mist hugged the grass. All very Hound of the Baskervilles. “September 1st, Bailey” I say. “you can always tell…”. Must be an age thing, but these seasonal punctuations don’t half seem to come ‘round quicker these days.


We are not the only ones feeling a little froideur in the air this morning. Spare a thought for the astronauts aboard the International Space Station who have had to get the silicon sealant out to plug a leak. With an outside temperature of minus 250 C, the consequences are a bit more serious than not being able to locate your 12 Tog duvet. And, then there’s MP Frank Field who’s just resigned the Labour whip. Although, as a life-long political maverick, he’s rather more used to being out in the cold than most.


If Jeremy Hunt had had a dog that he spoke to every morning, around this time of year he might have been seen muttering something about “winter pressures, Boris, winter pressures…” as he trudged around Belgravia. No doubt our new Health Secretary, dog or no dog, will be keeping a keen eye out for any drop in temperature that signals the start of the annual hospital bed crisis. Mr Hancock’s musings will have been given an extra piquancy given this morning’s Lancet report which predicts that by 2035, the number of people aged 85 and over needing 24-hour care is set to double – and that the number of 65-year-olds and over needing round-the-clock care is also set to rise by a third.


Well, that poses an interesting scenario. We will have millions of older, vulnerable people who will need more medical and nursing care. But, fewer GPs according to the King’s Fund’s doom-laden report last week which highlighted a workforce crisis in general practice. There’s a 2.2 per cent decline in the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) GPs to 33,062 in September 2017 compared to September 2016. And, a sizeable section of the workforce who plan to leave ‘direct patient care’ by 2022.


Lest we forget, what about Brexit? Deal or no deal, it’s likely to make it harder for Europeans to come and work in our care sector – should it even be worth them doing so with the pound almost at parity with the Euro.


Perhaps in 20 years’ time, we won’t actually need GPs – the old and the sick, their carers and families, will all be connected digitally to a virtual GP who will be able to diagnose everything. Prescribed medicines will be dispensed by Amazon and delivered to your door aboard a drone.


Yes. There’s a lot to contemplate in this season of mellowed clichés. My firm advice to Mr Hancock is to buy a dog. They require daily exercise which might just stave off requiring round the clock care in later life. More importantly, they’re excellent listeners.