OPINION - Private healthcare spared my agony — I just wish the NHS was as good

Rob Rinder.  Evening Standard byline photo.  (NATASHA PSZENICKI)
Rob Rinder. Evening Standard byline photo. (NATASHA PSZENICKI)

I’ve had a dicky back for a few months, but foolishly believed it would just get better on its own. In fact, shortly after it came on, I’d booked a juice fast and hoped the liquids being poured down my neck might pool in my lower spine and sort it all out.

They didn’t. I drank my juices and ran up mountains pursuing thirst selfies for insta — while ignoring the pain in my hamstrings and glutes and an increasingly numb foot.

Back home, I finally booked an appointment to see someone later in the month, before setting off again to a paradise on the other side of the world, and was still just about OK.

I returned to London, did my gym class and got ready to give a talk at a synagogue.

Then it happened: I bent down for my shoes and there was this snap (like God clicking some galactic castanet) and suddenly... well, “agony” doesn’t quite cut it. I finally understood what my friends meant when they talked about giving birth (but no-one offered me whale music or told me how beautiful I looked).

I struggled to the synagogue, where (helped by several doctors and a lot of scotch) I got through the Q&A. The night of torture that followed was so spectacular that I’d have stood nude in Trafalgar Square snogging Jacob Rees-Mogg to make it stop.

It was still a few days until I was scheduled to see my specialist, so a friend insisted that I go straight away to Colin Natali, the best back man on the planet. I made a few calls and, using my contacts, within an hour I was sitting with Colin in the heavenly Schoen Clinic — which felt more like a ten-star spa than a hospital — did my MRI, got my results and drew up our plans.

After doing GMB I was straight into theatre. Fingers crossed it’ll do the trick.

I’d popped a hospital selfie onto social media, so some papers ran “Rinder In Surgery” stories. As I recovered, I made a brief trip below the line to read peoples’ comments.

Everyone was incredibly kind. Many shared stories of similar injuries — and unbearably different stories about their treatment.

Nearly every account was indescribably harrowing, where, through my contacts, I’d swept in to see a world-renowned specialist and was back at work within a day, most people had waited months just to get an appointment, let alone have tests done or begin therapy. In some cases they’d waited 24 months to get treated, where I could barely endure the pain for 24 hours.

I’m very aware of my privilege but the depth and breadth of it hadn’t struck me until I held up my experience and saw it next to theirs.

It feels like there’s two Londons crammed into the same space. Two tiers is too many.

I’m not saying we should ban the first class-service I received, but we have to put an end to the third-rate treatment that so many others are suffering through. When it comes to freedom from pain and sickness, I don’t want to abolish privilege. I want it for everyone. And so should you.

Feltz is just fabulous

I once thought it would be nice for me and Rachel Stevens to wander down an aisle together and begin a lovely lavender marriage … we did once date, after all.

Alas, she never got back to me.

But now I think I’ve found another better half: the rather magnificent Vanessa Feltz, who’s going through a horrid break-up at the moment.

I just know that we’d be an utterly marvellous couple … She’s absurdly intelligent, perfectly voluptuous and we love lots of the same sorts of things (books, challah bread and strong opinions). Crucially, even when we disagree, it’s a right old laugh, which is the key to any successful relationship.

Yes, the Feltz-Rinders won’t be doing very much under the duvet except reading, but who has the energy anyway? Other than that it’ll be perfect.