I HAVE spent more time than I would like at hospital over the past week after my 19-month-old son, Finley, had an accident at home.

Mercifully, and thanks to the brilliant staff at Colchester General, he is back at home and back to his tearaway toddling best.

As awful as it is having to go to hospital, I invariably come out feeling humbled.

The NHS delivered me into the world, stitched my gashed shin up when I was ten, set my fractured ankle when I was 29, delivered my two sons, and treated my first son for croup (repeatedly).

I am sure they will come to my rescue again in the future.

They haven’t always got it right first time; like when they sent my file instead of my wife’s to a gynaecology appointment!

Our son Finley was born via an emergency c-section when, in hindsight, we should have been seen by a consultant weeks earlier.

A result of a shortage of consultants, no doubt.

And we have listened to a doctor argue with a ward manager to get our son admitted with tonsillitis, such is the pressure on beds.

The NHS has been creaking for a good few years as a result of the Government’s austerity measures. Sure, Whitehall has protected NHS funding.

But in reality, our hospitals have come under increasing strain to due cuts elsewhere...policing, social care, mental health etc.

Hospital bosses, faced with such pressures, have little choice but to make savings and look for ways to make money.

Colchester General is about to open a swanky new shopping precinct at the front of its building with Costa, Marks and Spencer, WH Smith and Stock Shop set to move in.

This revenue stream is borne out of financial necessity rather than any clamour from patients.

You see, there is already a perfectly good shop for all your hospital stay needs (which is in my experience a paper, a coffee and a sausage roll) in the form of the League of Friends.

The League of Friends volunteers are temporarily housed in a portacabin-style building near the entrance, and will eventually be next to the new shops.

I overheard one of the volunteers say to a customer: “You will still visit us when Costa opens won’t you? Our coffee won’t cost you £3.50.”

I don’t blame the hospital for letting these brands into their building; it will help to pay for our care after all.

But it smacks of exactly what has gone wrong with the privatisation of parts of the NHS, particularly in Colchester recently.

First Concordia, which was responsible for dermatology, then One to One Midwives, pulled out of their contracts, leaving patients in the lurch and the NHS to pick up the pieces.

I hate the fact bits of the NHS are being cherry-picked by private providers because they can provide better value for money.

I hold no grudge against Costa et al, or the hospital for letting them in.

But next time I visit, I’ll be getting my coffee from a lady in a blue tabard.