Take a doctor’s advice…

Next Friday the People and Places doctor is seen in Evening Surgery, Granada’s new series dealing with common illnesses and their treatment. Here he tells what he hopes the programmes will achieve

TVTimes masthead
From the TVTimes for week commencing 2 July 1961

IF the supply is anything to go on, the demand for medical information grows and grows. Documentary medical programmes, fictional medical programmes — seldom even a straight play on radio or television without the intrusion of the doctor.

If you switch off to read the paper there it is again. You sometimes have a job to find the Test Match scores among the clinical details of players’ injuries.

And now, for 20 minutes each week, I’m at it myself!

What’s it all about, this apparently insatiable curiosity about illness and health? Are we a nation of neurotics or are we genuinely anxious to learn about things that can affect us and things that can help us? I’m afraid it’s a little of both. Were it only the former I would not be undertaking this present series nor would the British Medical Association have chosen “Health Education” as its Subject of the Year.

It is true that interest in matters of this sort is not always healthy, and that in some cases it may even have dangers. But I believe, as do most of my profession, that these dangers are nothing to the menace of ignorance, with its inevitable accompaniment of superstition and fear.

A woman sits at a desk opposite a man with a stethoscope around his neck so you'll know he's a doctor
The People and Places doctor in his consulting room on the outskirts of Manchester

Indeed it is for this reason that doctors and hospitals are now so ready to assist with programmes like Emergency — Ward 10.

The old days of secrecy and mystery are over. The witch doctor is dead. So, if people are to he informed, then the more fully and accurately it is done, the better.

In the Evening Surgery series we will deal with all sorts of medical matters. Not merely illnesses, though there’ll be plenty of those, no doubt, but health as well, both from the individual and the community point of view.

Smoking, clean air, sport, food, feet — in fact anything affecting my profession which the public ought to know or which would be interesting or even amusing for them to know — and amusement isn’t as out of place as all that in matters of health.

Indeed, one of the first steps in cultivating a healthy attitude to illness is surely to learn to talk about it in other than hushed tones.

I shall make no attempt to talk as a “high-priest” and I hope viewers will not listen to me like a congregation.

Some people might wonder whether 6.40 p.m. is the best time for this sort of programme. Well, I suppose there are some things that children shouldn’t hear, but one can never be too young to learn sense.

It is in childhood above all that health education can really help. It is at this time that wrong thinking, false attitudes and fears begin. And they begin with ignorance, not with hearing “unsuitable things.”

Every child is aware of illness and even of death, and the more they are shrouded in mystery the more frightening they become. In other words, the problem is not “are they too young?” but “are they too old?” Are their prejudices and superstitions too firmly fixed to be dislodged?

A man, a woman and a baby
The doctor helps his wife Joy to feed their 7-month-old baby Diana

Incidentally, don’t be misled by the title of this new programme. In Evening Surgery, I am not inviting viewers to take a peep at my patients or my prescription book, nor am I trying to diagnose or treat ailments.

I am not trying to be a Sister X or a Doctor Y of the women’s magazines, nor am I a means of dodging your own doctor’s waiting-room queue.

But I do hope that I may make your own doctor’s work easier. Not by teaching you to treat yourselves, but by helping you to heed and to understand what he tells you — and even to understand his problems as well as your own.

Finally, you won’t have only me to look at. As a general practitioner, I can hardly claim to be a universal genius in the medical field, and I shall bring along my “experts” and question them.

Patients, too, will have their say from time to time, both on film and in the studio.

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