LIKE the curate’s egg, the NHS is bad in parts.

That means, of course, that it is also good in parts and over the last month I have experienced much of that good.

None of that good relates to hospital car parks.

I will start with the rotten bit of the egg and carry on from there.

On March 9 I had a consultation at the West Cumberland. I paid for more than two hours parking but the consultation and examination lasted much longer than that.

I won’t go into detail but, believe me, I did not have the chance to stop halfway and top up the meter.

I got a ticket which I challenged as soon as I got home.

On Wednesday April 12, I had a response telling me I needed to contact the hospital for proof that I had been there.

Stupidly I did ring and spoke to two busy nurses and two secretaries, none of whom knew exactly what they were supposed to do.

Then I stopped and wondered what on earth I was doing.

We read stories about pressures on the NHS all the time – and now we expect them to waste valuable time establishing that I or anyone else had valid reason to overstay their parking time.

It is plain ridiculous. I paid for over two hours, I explained why I was late back and now, to be honest, I am doing no more. I’ll see them in court!

Now for the good part: Since March 7 I have had no fewer than five appointments at both the West Cumberland and Carlisle hospitals.

I’ve been examined top-to-toe and round about. In fact, it would only be if my big toe falls off that I could complain because I think it is the only part of my body that has not been examined.

Not too many years ago a female doctor diagnosed with cancer wrote a book about being on the other end of medical intervention.

For her, the most important thing was that people introduced themselves – gave her their name and called her by hers. It meant she was a person to them. I am not sure if this was a lesson learned or just natural Cumbrian friendliness but everyone I dealt with gave me their name and treated me like a person not just a “case”.

I’ve written stories about waiting lists. I have seen the other side of that and, in fact, to the point of ridiculous.

On Wednesday, I saw a surgeon in Carlisle and was told an appointment would be made for an ultrasound. I left the hospital got almost as far as the car park when my phone rang. They had made an appointment and it was now!

The NHS is far from perfect. This newspaper and I myself have campaigned and will continue, along with the rest of Maryport, to oppose the removal of overnight beds from our local hospital.

I am appalled by the horror stories of people waiting and even dying in corridors because there are not enough beds in acute hospitals and the other headlines that so often head our news.

How often have you been told that our NHS is broken – and I am sure that is not entirely wrong.

But when it comes to it, there is more good in this curate’s egg than bad.

When we get sick we can be sure of free medical treatment and free hospitalisation if we need it.

The reason people are so passionate about it and so angry when Governments interfere, is because the NHS is probably the most important asset we have.

We need to hang onto it. We need to be passionate about it.

What we do not need is heavy-handed parking enforcement.

No matter how much we love the NHS few of us visit hospitals for fun. We are all there because we know someone who is ill for could be ill ourselves.

I don’t like having to pay to park at all but if we have to, we have to.

But if someone has paid then have a little compassion please.

Anyway, I’ll be telling that to the judge.