James Gray, MP for North Wiltshire

Groucho Marx was famously of the view that there are only three certainties in life: “birth, death and taxes”.

I would add to that the racing certainty that we all will need care of one sort or another – from our GP for routine complaints; our hospitals for more serious things; our dentists to keep the smile what it should be, long-term care in our old age; the wonderful people who run Macmillan hospices.

Every one of us – and those we love – will need these kind and skilled people and institutions at one stage of our lives or another; and we should take a minute every now and again to reflect on how lucky we are in this country to have them, and to thank them for what they do.

It was good to look in to the open day at Goatacre Manor Care Centre on Friday. This is the most lovely long-term care home – large comfortable rooms, with doors opening onto the gardens and views to Goatacre Cricket Ground. The people I met there looking after the residents are amongst the most committed and caring of people one could hope to meet.

On Sunday I went to the lovely service in St Andrew’s, Chippenham, to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the friends of Chippenham Hospital (which of course serves the whole of North Wiltshire). The Friends raise money for – and then supply – all those little bits of civilisation which patients need, and which the NHS cannot always justify providing.

A few examples are electronic reclining chairs for the day room, syringe drivers for community nurses and a birthing pool. The volunteers in Chippenham and also Malmesbury do great work just making illness that little bit less unpleasant, and making patients’ lives a little more comfortable.

The chairman, Elizabeth Sexton, has served on the Friends in one capacity or another for some 50 years. It is dedication to helping others like that of which we can all be so very proud in a community like ours.

And in National Carers Week we think of all of the thousands of people looking after friends and relations, without pay, often without respite, sometimes without thanks, selflessly and with devotion. Were it not for our voluntary carers, the nation would not be able to afford the resulting burden on society.

So while we should all be concerned about the occasional NHS scandal; far more important than that is to focus on how very fortunate we are.

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