Here's what I want to find in my local NHS hospital: tip-top technology, well-trained doctors, kind nurses, efficient administrators, clean floors, and one of those anti-bacterial hand-wash dispensers at every door.
But if I found Voodoo dolls, snakes and shamans, I'd rather die at home. Thanks to the National Lottery, this prospect is no longer far-fetched: at the Good Hope Hospital in Sutton Coldfield, it is paying for alternative healers to run their hands over patients for 20 minutes in the hope that "positive energy" will cure them.
I can see that I would relish having 20 minutes of someone's undivided attention if I were lying on my back in a bustling NHS ward. When the nurse is too busy to fetch my water and the consultant too self-important to engage in conversation about my condition, a bit of human contact, even with someone muttering mumbo-jumbo, is welcome. The alternative healing industry cannot rely on scientific evidence to support its lucrative claims; but it can count on patients' need for one-on-one time.
I came away from my one and only session with an alternative therapist purring with contentment: for a full hour someone had asked me about my wellbeing, my diet, my family life, and then probed my body and massaged my limbs. The fact that my sore throat, which I'd hoped he would cure, was still burning, didn't seem very important. I never doubted that it was all hocus-pocus – but hey, I felt more relaxed. I didn't mind the £50 fee.