A few days ago saw the fourteenth anniversary of my dad’s death. Fourteen isn’t a significant milestone, and his death isn’t something I dwell on much. But, with other issues going on around me, it did give me pause to reflect on how things have changed.

In his latter years, he developed chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a condition that affects the lungs. There can be a number of causes, but the main ones are air pollution and smoking. As a one-time 40 a day man, no prizes for guessing how he got it.

I’d never known him to not smoke, so was surprised to learn recently that he didn’t start until he was twenty-eight. It seems he was experiencing a lot of stress at the time and he, sensibly, went to see his GP for advice about it. Apparently, the advice was to have a couple of pints a day and take up smoking. I doubt he was given a prescription.

Clearly, these were different times.

When people talk about the ‘good old days’, you get the impression a GP was someone who knew their patients. Not just what might be written down in their notes. They knew the families, understood their histories. And this would be especially true for families that’d always lived in the community. It certainly rings true for me. This GP became my doctor as well. Our families lived in the same village. My mum knew his wife, and his children went to same schools I did.

There are other factors, though. A visit to the GP is much more regimented now than it used to be – assuming you’ve passed the endurance test of getting an appointment in the first place. And the slot is often only booked for one issue at a time. Presumably, it’s bad form to have more than one ailment. Or maybe it’s just too many boxes to tick.

This is where my recent experience comes in. I won’t bore you with all the details – let’s face it, no one wants to listen to someone else moaning about their health. Suffice it to say that my partner had a fall last September. She landed on her arm and, after a while, it became clear that, not only had she damaged her wrist and thumb, but also her shoulder. One incident, two different consultants. They’re working on issues caused by the same event and with the injury at one end of the arm exacerbating the problems at the other. And there’s been no dialogue between them.

In the halcyon days of the family GP who knew everything about you, you got the impression that someone was keeping an eye on what was happening, and intervening if the patient wasn’t getting the treatment they needed from the hospital (or hospitals). Our GP probably doesn’t even know whether she’s still seeing consultants or not.

Is this down to underfunding? Is it that the medical staff are overworked? Is it the focus on targets and, if your medical condition doesn’t fit in the target box, you fall off the radar? I don’t know. It could be any or, more likely, all of these – and probably other reasons besides. Is it any wonder that we look back at the ‘good old days’  and wish we could have them again?

Perhaps that’s why a recent survey reported the lowest ever satisfaction level with the NHS.

Of course, those good old days could just be wishful thinking, a fiction created in our minds to hark back to when things were better. And undoubtedly helped along by films and TV shows, set in those days gone by, where doctors and nurses are portrayed as really caring about their patients.

Then again, if the reality of those days means your GP was inclined to recommend you take up smoking, maybe they weren’t so great after all. My dad was 75 when he died – no age at all by today’s standards.

If only life was as simple as there being good and bad. In truth, there are a lot of good things about the medical treatment we get now that we didn’t in the past. But there are also good things that have been lost along the way.

From my experience, I suspect the dissatisfaction arises in large part because these days it feels like you’re are part of a process rather than being treated as an individual. And I don’t say that based on this one instance. Unfortunately, we’ve had to deal with the medical profession a lot over the past few years. If that sense of just being part of a system persists, the dissatisfaction with the NHS will grow. Because none of us want to just be another number.