I feel like the Yozza Hughes of the health world: "Gizza GP! Go on, gizza GP!" I haven't had a family doctor for well over a year now. We tried to join a practice in Crouch End last summer, after moving from another London borough. The baby and I actually got inside a room with a doctor in it and talked face to face about health issues worrying me. But then came the moment of truth. The doc asked: "Has your baby had all the inoculations - DPT, Hib, MMR?" "No, she hasn't," I replied. "That doesn't make a difference, does it?"
Oh, we were so close to having regular medical care available to us that I could almost smell the antibiotics. Instead, we were coolly told that there were suddenly "no spaces available on our list". Alexandra was grudgingly granted a temporary reprieve. "If your daughter gets ill, we'll see her as an emergency visitor. You'd better get her a doctor right away, though," he added.
Since last summer, I have tried to play every GP in the book. First, there's the "turn up in person in nice clothes" ploy. This got me as far as a form to fill in at two rather nice surgeries - the kind where the waiting-room is filled with magazines about gardening, not Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, and mums in designer sandals, not slippers. The forms were completed and then came identical phone calls. "Sorry, there's no space left on our lists. You shouldn't really have been given a form to fill in, in the first place. Someone made a mistake."
This week, things came to a head. I am five months' pregnant, but I have not had any care whatsoever. When you're pregnant, you are supposed to be assessed once a month. Urine and blood samples are tested, blood pressure checked and the baby's heartbeat monitored. I have had none of this done.
In desperation, I went to the only place I could think of - the gym. Here, I knew they had basic medical equipment; maybe, just maybe, I could trick one of the personal trainers into helping me find out if everything was OK with the two of us.
Behind the running machines, a group of muscly men were gossiping. One of them was clutching a long lead in his hand, attached to a blood pressure machine. With my best coy smile, I persuaded him to "check me out".
The reading was horrendous. My resting pulse, he stammered, appeared to be 114 beats per minute. My blood pressure reading was (for me) heinous at 137 over 100. "That's really high," he muttered nervously. "Perhaps you should see your GP."
The next morning, I called the Royal Free Hospital in tears, and pleaded with the lovely midwife to take me and baby under her wing. "We can't do anything without a referral from a GP," she sympathised. However, she checked my blood pressure that afternoon (illegitimately). It was fine. The gym reading had been duff.
Returning to Willesden, I tried one last ploy to avoid having my baby at home, sans care. The stand-in doctor was blunt, cruel. "You don't live here any more And we can't refer non-residents."
"Can't or won't?" I countered. "At least take my blood pressure and tell me if the baby is OK," I begged.
"No. This is an emergency appointment. There's no time. The only thing I could do is refer you to a hospital if you were still resident in this borough - which you are not."
"Then I'll just sit here until I am referred or treated. For Christ's sake, woman, my baby could be in danger!" With a disgusted sniff, she tapped some details into a computer and said: "Right, that's done. Your prenatal care will all be handled by the Royal Free." I jumped for joy. As I was leaving, the harridan hissed: "But you won't know when your appointments are, because the letters will be sent to your old address! Good luck."