My skiing holiday in France was meant to be a relaxing break from health and health policy. But my hopes were dashed when on the third day I fell and heard a crack in my knee.

As I was not screaming in agony and somehow managed to ski down the mountain, I assumed it was not serious. But the next day, with a rapidly swelling leg, I realised I needed to see a doctor.

I was directed to a specialist in sports medicine round the corner. In 10 minutes I had been diagnosed with a torn cruciate ligament - the stuff of Michael Owen's nightmares. After an x-ray, I was fitted with a full leg brace and told I needed urgent intensive physiotherapy and anti-inflammatories and that I was only to walk with crutches.

My insurer would not repatriate me or sanction any further treatment until it had seen the medical report - which it cannily delayed requesting or chasing for several days - so before I knew it, I had spent a week in an isolated farmhouse, with only frequent calls to the insurer for company. At least the journey home was worth waiting for: special transport at the airport, someone to collect my luggage and even extra seats on the plane. Who needs first class?

So to the NHS. At home I called my GP practice and asked to speak to a doctor so I could arrange treatment. The receptionist said all telephone consultations were booked that day.

I asked for an appointment instead and was offered 9.10am on Friday of that week. I asked for something later - anything to avoid the bus in rush hour - but was told I would need to ring at 8am on the day for that.

I know I was not an emergency, but as I had already waited a week for crutches and anti-inflammatories and had had my fill of telephoning, I decided to go to accident and emergency. The Chelsea and Westminster examined and x-rayed me within two hours. I left clutching an orthopaedics appointment for Friday morning, a set of crutches and a variety of painkillers.

So despite a career of writing about primary care, I can see the attraction of circumventing general practice. Come Lord Darzi's proposals to charge practices for A&E visits, mine can expect a hefty bill.