Transcript of interview with Kate Russell and Paul aka MahdDogg

This transcript is a companion piece to “Government guidelines leave male abuse victims out in the cold”.

Normal: SPB

Bold: Mahddogg

Italic: Kate Russell

 

Right, for both of you then: In your own words what is the aim of your campaign?

For me it’s about justice, pure and simple. Once we started looking into the overwhelmingly gender biased portrayal of domestic abuse victim support material and awareness campaigning by UK police authorities we followed the breadcrumb back to the source: the Home Office statutory guidance on coercive control, issued in December 2015 to support the new law… That guidance, as written, expressly advises gender bias against men… it’s unlawful, it’s wrong, and it’s morally corrupt

For me, it’s to get to the heart of why there is gender bias in the treatment of Domestic Abuse victims, which I think we have identified, and address it head on. Domestic Violence is a massively underreported crime yet the Home Office is issuing guidance to the police that is based upon CPS prosecution statistics, and is not representative of the entire breadth and diversity of victims, male, female, gay or bi or trans. It’s ignoring and therefore not targeting these groups. The guidance must be changed so that policing and investigation of Domestic Abuse and coercive/controlling behaviour is gender and sexuality blind.

100% of the authorities who have responded to my question about whether they use that document to inform policy making in policing domestic abuse, stated in writing they do use it as guidance

I know from my experience that there is a stigma amongst male victims in particular. Guidance of this kind is what keeps us from reporting our abuse. Because it seems like the authorities don’t care.

yes.. and men don’t report it because this stigma tells them they won’t be believed, and might lose access to their kids, or face arrest themselves. No wonder they don’t report it

That last one is at the forefront of every man’s mind when we’re under attack too. It’s why we don’t defend ourselves

So this becomes not only about getting the government to change guidance appropriately, and authorities to adjust accordingly, but also to affect a massive change in culture as well.

Absolutely. If the home office admit they were wrong then we can use that as a springboard to start asking police authorites and the care services to review their policies and offer real support to ALL victims

That’s the hope, just this one step isn’t going to be enough to effect a full on shift in culture, but this one step will be massive in it’s impact on victims of domestic abuse and violence. All it takes is for Theresa May and the Home Office to change 3 paragraphs to reflect the reality.

It’s also about changing the perception of male victims about what is happening to them.. if they see posters expressing male victims then maybe they will feel more confident to take action and save themselves and their kids. And if female abusers see these poster maybe it will make them wake up to the reality of what they are doing

While no one wants to admit they are a victim, understanding that you are can help you make the moves you need to get help and get safe.

Every journey begins with a single step. In this case that step is rewriting 3 paragraphs

That’s all. Right there, and will change so much.

Theresa may can do that, on her own, in her office, in about 10 minutes. And the document as written is UNLAWFUL, by the government’s own definition

We’ve done the research to back up the change; it’s in breach of The Equality Act. I’ve been reading a lot of acts.

If we were discussing a minority here, people would be up in arms about the under reporting of the crime, and would launch a media campaign to make them more aware. But it’s men… half the population. So that aspect just doesn’t get spoken about. Instead we launch campaigns to encourage more women to come forward.

That’s the bias that results in documents like the Guidance. Where we can see from the Violence Against Women Report from the CPS shows that 84% of their reports come from women. Women ARE reporting, more should too, of course. Women are already responding to the last 30 years of work done by domestic violence campaigning and services.

There is a blatant hypocrisy here. Have you received any backing from any help groups or charities that deal with domestic abuse?

There have been a number of small groups who have been in contact with Kate and I throughout the campaign and back before we even started.

Lots of small charities and support groups are helping push the petition, and if you read the comments you will see dozens and dozens of personal accounts from abused men who have not reported their abuse. But the mainstream organisations supporting domestic abuse victims all suffer the same bias, and all refer to the statutory guidance when questioned. Having the guidance changed would take away that place the hide and make the well-funded organisations have to stand up and be counted.

Having seen the posters, would you also say that as well as discriminating against men, it is also on the side of being racist and homophobic?

Not racist or homophobic no. Those are proactive discriminations. What we’re dealing with here is lack of support and omission of the true statistics. It’s not a wilful discrimination, but equally corrosive to the victims who are not represented.

I wouldn’t go so far as to call it homophobic, that’s heading into hate crime territory, however it definitely does exclude Gay and Bi relationships as all seem to depict heterosexual relationships. As to race, I wouldn’t say so. A lot of campaigns do have a good balance of ethnicities represented.

Agreed on the ethnicities fact, but that goes back to my point about minority representation. It’s very ‘fashionable’ to support minorities. “Fashionable” is perhaps trivialising that point too much.. but you get my drift I hope.

I can’t say it better than that. It’s certainly something that is proactively addressed. However there is one “-ist” that hasn’t been mentioned: sexist. [Are these campaigns] sexist?”

And instead of responding to newspaper polls where the public overwhelmingly agree the campaigns are sexist, some public servants instead vote brigade their cronies to swing the poll results back the other way. While being paid a salary by public money, half of which comes from the pockets of men.

Then claim to be victims of an “Orchestrated Campaign” against the police.

It occurs to me that even if we get the guidance changed, these biased approaches will still exist, but with the guidance document changed to express the gender/sexuality neutral status of the crime it will take away their place to hide when challenged. That has to be a positive thing for everyone.

Just out of interest what kind of media exposure have you had so far?

We had an interview on BBC 3 Counties radio which kind of kicked it all off and gave us the idea to target the guidance document

That was an hour of radio time on this subject. A good start too. We’ve been pushing everything so far through social networks; even through there, we’re getting a good feel as to public response. It has been overwhelmingly positive. I’m sitting here with the petition page open watching the numbers go up. That’s a heartening thing to see.

Less heartening are the dozens and dozens of stories from abuse victims who feel they don’t have a voice.

Is the petition just for May, or is it requesting a debate in Parliament?

Just May. She has the power to change it It is fully within the home secretary’s power to change the guidance as laid out in Section 77 of the Serious Crime Act 2015. The simple facts are, the document as it stands is unlawful by the government’s own definition, and Theresa May can put that right in less than an hours work probably. She has yet to reply to repeated emails and tweets to the Home Office account though. So much for ‘public servant’.

Refusing to do so, well, that would send a very clear message to victims of domestic abuse everywhere.

This is not a topic for debate.. there is no debate.. it’s the right and moral thing to do

It just occurred to me that this may well fall under a Human Right issue. Has this been explored aat all?

Hmm… not expressly. This petition is the first step. If we get no joy, we won’t stop. Any person who is sane can see the document is wrong

But if she refuses then it may very well become a human rights issue.

I mean, it uses statistics taken from the Violence against Women and Girls Crime Report 2013-2014 to assert that most victims are women…

And everyone in those statistics reported and it lead to a prosecution.

That’s like going into a brazillain meat BBQ restaurant to assert that most people are meat eaters, or going into a vegan restaurant to assert we’re all vegetarians.

The Office of National Statistics covers unreported crime and includes male victims. Putting them at 33% of all victims of abuse. 33.33% to be precise.

It’s another prime example of the government only using facts that they want to use.

When the government office in charge of national statistics says that the numbers the guidance relies on can’t be used as national statistical data then they have no argument to make.

One of the problems historically in bringing light to this issue is that it is usually argued back and forth between people with extreme ideologies – feminists vs. mens rights activists. It’s the reason we wanted to be clear in the petition that this is not about Men vs. Women. I campaign for gender neutrality and against gender bias in the tech sector. I couldn’t be more moderate politically. And Mahddogg is a victim – WAS a victim.. though it’s a dreadful label to put on someone who has shown such strength of character in raising this issue.

A survivor, and I’d like to see more of us.

We don’t care who you are – if you’re suffering domestic abuse, you deserve to get treated equally.

This is not an issue to use as a political or ideological football. It can affect anyone, from any walk of life. That’s the importance of all of this. The law is good, its application is wrong.

Theresa may needs to understand that this isn’t going away

Guys this is brilliant thank you.

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Imposition from the eyes of a future junior doctor.

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Earlier today I spoke with a medical student, Michael, asking him his thoughts on the imposition of the junior doctors contract.

“Stephen, I’m well thanks (though been better!) It’s a bad day, not just because the contract is set to apply to all junior doctors from August, but because it sets a precedent for the government to ignore the views of an entire workforce and force through a flawed contract condemned by all. That is bound to affect the dynamic, both within the NHS and between the public sector and the government, in a very serious and negative way. Medical students are demoralised. My colleagues and I have our final exams in a month’s time; what better way to motivate bright young minds than to impose unsafe, unfair working conditions just as they reach their biggest hurdle to entering what was once a respected profession?”

It’s a polite response, but it cannot hide the disappointment shared by all those who are fighting to save the NHS. Mr. Hunt’s insistence at forcing this contract is seen as nothing more than a diktat on an already overstretched, demoralised workforce. We’re asking how many existing junior doctors will leave the profession because of this imposition. We should also be concerned about how many medical students will turn their back on their once chosen profession, because of the actions of a failed marmalade exporter.

I agree with Donald Trump, but not for the same reasons.

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This week was the 35th anniversary of the death of Mr. John Lennon; the man who sang at Christmas “War is.over if you want it”. Well it turns out we don’t want it, at least certain Powers-That-Be don’t. After multiple “military interventions” in recent years, in Libya, Afghanistan and twice in Iraq, it seems we still think dropping bombs will solve the problems we face – problems that our esteemed leaders created, by dropping bombs. Seriously, rats learn quicker!

Of course America is in this coalition against Cystitis (there’s so many names for these “Islamic militants” I thought I’d use the one comedian Adam Hills came up with), and in America there’s a man with a plan. A plan that he thinks will stop terrorist attacks in the United States. That man is Donald Trump, and the plan is to ban Muslims from entering the USA.

Now I know there are those of you that think this is total overkill, but I think Mr. Trump is right. Go on, do it. Ban Muslims from entering the US. Seriously, do it. And while you’re at it, why not ban Jewish people as well. And don’t stop there, why not ban homosexuals too? Add Hispanics to the list. Heck, just include any religious, sexual orientation, ethnic or other group of people that you blame for the problems in your America. Ban them all, and then sit back in your white ivory tower and watch as the problems you thought you could solve through banning select groups of people instead of, oh I don’t know – GUNS, continues unabated.

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We’re always told not to give in to fear, that we should rise above it – conquer it. If you have a fear of heights, you climb to the top of the tallest tower. If you have a fear of dogs, get a dog! (Friends quote there.) That’s what this is all about; fear. The very word “Islamaphobia” denotes a fear of Islam. And as the saying goes,’we always fear what we don’t understand’. So surely we should rise above the fear and try to understand Muslims and their place in the world, instead of demonising and destroying their way of life.

Now I know there a people out there who looks at these “militants”, guns and knifes in hand, faces obscured by headscarfs, and see them as nothing short of evil. That they’re trying to destroy our way of life  And you’re right to worry, but the actions of terrorists ultimately has nothing to do with their beliefs, ethnicity or anything else. At the end of the day I don’t care what group you’re from; if you’re black or white, Muslim or Christian, gay or straight, blonde or brunette, Star Trek or Star Wars – the minute you slit someone’s throat, or shoot them in the head, or drop bombs on innocent civilians, you lose the right to any of those labels and are stuck with just one: murderer. Hiding behind a twisted version of an ancient belief structure is nothing more than an excuse. Many believe that religion is responsible for many of the worlds conflicts, a view I also subscribe to. Heck, it can also cause conflict in the family – what about the adage of the two topics you should never discuss around the dinner table; politics and religion? Ever since the dawn of mankind people have subscribed to various belief systems, and it has always caused conflict. You would think that after a millennia we as a species would have been able to evolve past the ignorance and violence to acceptance and tolerance of other peoples views and ideas, but here we are in the 21st Century, still being held back by our fears. And it’s fearmongers like Donald Trump that are holding us back.

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In the wake of Mr. Trump’s fearmongering, there’s a petition doing the rounds calling for Mr. Trump to be banned from the UK – hardly surprising when you read that a quarter of the British public support Trumps immigration policy. Not surprising either that UKIP have jumped on the bandwagon, although even the party’s leader and Mr. Toad lookalike Nigel Farage called Mr. Trumps language a “political step too far”. Banning Mr. Trump seems like the right thing to do at first glance, but once again it’s ignoring the issue. It’s not addressing the intolerance of this man and those who subscribe to his view point, of which there are many. Like I said, people are afraid, and the only way to get past this fear is to discuss it – show evidence to the contrary. Maybe we should be discussing religion around the dinner table after all.

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Now with Mr. Trump, he knows exactly what he’s doing. He knows the mood of America right now, and he’s stirring it up – he’s creating a tidal wave of hate and fear that could well give him the Republican candidacy for the White House. Ultimately, no matter how much evidence and facts you present to debunk his arguments, he’s hardly likely to listen. It’s fascinating that someone so well known for “reality TV” seems to live in a world of such abject fantasy. So for him we make an exception to the rule; we ignore him. Don’t interview him, don’t give him the time of day, but don’t ban him either because then he’s the victim, that’s how he feeds – he draws power from negativity. Cut him off!!

This post was brought to you by The Wishful Thinking And Pigs Might Fly Society. Because sometimes, common sense really isn’t that common.

 

Can we still call ourselves Great Britain?

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Right, I’m coming straight out with it – I’m embarrassed to be British.

A while ago I was staying in a hostel in New Zealand, and I saw a couple – blatantly American – checking in, trying to convince the receptionist they were Canadian. It wasn’t like the couple were going to get banned from staying there or anything, they just wanted it to be made clear – they were from Canada.  I ended up speaking with them a few hours later – nice couple, properly patriotic but at the same time embarrassed by what their country, or rather their President had been doing. It might be prudent to mention at this point that their president at that time was George W. Bush, so you can kind of understand their wishful anonymity, sad as it was to see. It was like watching a lion trying to convince the rest of the zoo he’s a vegetarian – cute but sad.

I’m embarrassed to be British, and for me that’s not cute. I was never the biggest patriot in the world to begin with, but watching the gradual and systematic destruction of our country’s values and ideals has made me realise just how great Britain is, or rather how great it used to be. And I’m not talking about the grand old days of colonialism and how our great nation ruled the seven seas. Our greatness came from our morals and beliefs. Unfortunately we have a group of people running our country who have done nothing but abuse the country’s systems, infrastructure and people, and then lie with the pretext that they are doing this to make the country better, safer and more financially viable. While I include previous governments in this, all the evidence from the Conservative governments recent activities suggests this is far from the case.

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There’s the tax credit cuts – something that David Cameron swore blind before the election wouldn’t happen. It hasn’t – yet – but not for the Tories lack of trying. When you parachute in as many of your honourary peers to vote for the cuts in the House of Lords, and it’s these lords who show they have more in common with the general public than those got voted in to power, then you must know something is wrong.

There’s the government secretly changing the rules – having recently altered their own ministerial code to effectively exempt themselves from international law. This mean that the UK is not obliged to observe any international laws or treaties that would prevent them from using military force in other countries. or even answering to a United Nations investigation believing that tax credit cuts are a human rights violation. This effectively means the government of the United Kingdom answers to no one but itself.

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There’s the recently passed Trade Union bill that will, among other things, greatly restrict the rights of professional individuals and their unions to vote on and participate in industrial action. It is also so draconian as to set back equal opportunities in the workplace, with women workers the most affected by the divisive bill.

There’s the Investgatory Powers Bill, or as it’s become known The “Snoopers Charter”. A piece of legislation drawn up by Theresa May and the Home Office that we are told is there to make us safer, by monitoring all of our personal communications. People are naturally sceptic of this, and the government has been accused legalising invasion of privacy. The act has been further questioned in light of the recent and horrific attacks in Paris by So Called Islamic State, with many noting that “keeping everyone’s online history for a year and passing that to the intelligence service will not make us safer.” Even IT business leaders have said it’s a “bad idea”.

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It will soon be a lot harder to vote the Tories out

There’s also the worry that the game is being rigged. Again, behind closed doors, this government is changing more rules, and this time it’s on how we as a nation vote. If you think they’re doing the sensible thing of scrapping First Past the Post in favour of proportional representation, I’m afraid it’s far more troubling. They are planning to cut the number of British MP’s, presumably under the cloak of streamlining the parliamentary system. This will also change how we register to vote, which has the potential to leave thousands of UK citizens unable to have a voice in an election. Effectively the Conservatives are making it more difficult for those citizens who are more likely to vote against them to vote at all.

Plus there’s proposed changes to the Freedom Of Information act, which will greatly restrict access to vast amounts of important data and will further entrench the government whilst covering up potential scandals. Remember the MP’s expenses story? That was published through gaining FOI. This new act will mean such stories that are well within the remit of public interest will be harder to divulge.

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And finally, my personal (for want of a better word) favourite: the NHS. The UK’s health service has been chipped away at since the 1980’s, and now it looks like rhyming slangs best friend and current Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is packing the whole thing with political dynamite! He wants a 7 day NHS, he wants to reform the NHS, he wants to impose new contracts on junior doctors…..and there’s the final straw. 53,000 doctors, ranging from the “just out of uni” stage to the “about to be a consultant” stage, have said no, with 98% of those balloted (76%) of all junior doctors) saying quite clearly they are “prepared to take part in industrial action” – something that if the previously mentioned Trade Union Bill was currently law would be much more difficult, nay impossible. And before we start saying “how dare junior doctors talk about striking, they have a duty of care”, it’s worth noting that our police force got to this stage back in January 2015, for similar reasons. Plus given that further cuts to the force are on the Tory agenda, I wouldn’t be surprised if we hear of more disquiet from our hard working law enforcers either.

Junior doctors have had enough because the contract being imposed on them – not offered to them – is unsafe, both for them and their patients. Mr. Hunt has said that he wants to negotiate, but has a funny way of showing it; from describing junior doctors as “militant” for balloting on strike action, to offering an 11% pay rise that is actually a 26% pay cut. The health secretary, aided by Conservative media cohorts Daily Mail and The Times, also tried to launch an ill advised smear campaign against British Medical Association leaders, which quickly fell apart (I mean Heaven forbid that medical professionals have interests outside of their career. MP’s would never do that #sarcasm.) There’s one thing you should never do if you’re going to pick a war of words and ideals with people: don’t start one with a group whose very job involves examining and scrutinising hard data and facts. It will win out against lies and spin every time.

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This isn’t another prolonged piece on the state of the NHS and defending junior doctors, because their doing a bang up job themselves. It’s just another piece in a very disturbing puzzle, and while what I’ve written here is by no means a complete picture, it must at least make you question the Conservatives true agenda for the UK.When you see the Prime Minister shaking hands with leaders of countries who have at least questionable records on human rights (China and Saudi Arabia) then you know that what it means to be British has changed for the worse.

Fear and lack of leadership alternatives got the Conservatives in to power, and now that they’re in they are doing everything they can to keep themselves there. They are taking steps to minimise any chance of a response from the public that disagrees with them, whilst making dangerous decisions on our behalf that may not affect us directly now, but may well affect the next generation. It’s not a dictatorship because it’s more than one person, but it’s pretty close.

Like I said, I’m embarrassed to be British.

 

Interview with Dr. Hamed Khan

This is a full transcript of an interview from October 9th 2015.

Dr Hamed Khan

Dr. Hamed Khan is a GP, A&E doctor, and has become one of many key NHS figures to talk openly about the problems this junior contract is causing, and representing a new initiative take the health service out of politicians hands.

Firstly thanks for agreeing to talk to me. You’ve been busy. Is it getting any easier getting your message across?

“I think it is. Slowly but surely we’re getting more and more support from the public, politicians and even the parts of the media. Incidentally I was speaking about the NHS deficit on BBC 3 Counties Radio this evening and Roberto Perrone (their lead presenter) told me how he had spoken to various people who thought that the only way to save the NHS by devolving it from political control, and creating some sort of independent commission to look at it, and oversee it in the longer term. What I’m also hearing frequently from both patients and front line professionals is that they feel that politicians are driven by elections and 4 year electoral terms, which hinders their ability- and perhaps motivation- to think about the longer term. And this is why our idea of bringing together the public, front line professionals and patients to think collectively about the NHS, without the limitations of a 4 year electoral term, is gaining so much traction. The idea of a Royal Commission to do this is novel, and new territory for many people- but again the independent nature of this is something that I feel many people find attractive.”

A lot has changed since we first made contact. Was Mr. Hunt’s recent letter a surprise for you?

“We are a large diverse group, and reactions within the group vary. Some of us feel that this is old wine in a new bottle, and that JH is merely putting spin on what is fundamentally no change in his original position. Others feel that it is a sign that he is has- very slowly- started to gain an insight into the level of opposition he faces, and is trying to change his stance and entice the BMA back to the table. We’re reluctant to give a knee jerk reaction, although I think it’s accurate to say that most of us are more skeptical than optimistic. It’s early days and the devil is in the detail. It doesn’t help that in the DoH appears to be very inaccessible, and reluctant to participate in any media discussions and debates. I’ve spoken to several journalists from numerous TV channels who have expressed deep frustration at the reluctance and refusal of DoH officials to appear and debate with front line professionals. It is understandably that many of us perceive this as a lack of openness that reflects the weakness of their arguments.”

And seems to be a reluctance to be transparent or accessible reflected in the delayed publications of the NHS deficit figures until after the Tory Party Conference.

“Well it certainly gives that perception. One thing that is clear from all this is that the way the DOH has managed its communications has been confrontational and deeply undiplomatic. The disconnect and disengagement has escalated to a highly charged emotive confrontation and what many people see almost as a state of war! Whatever the arguments, this breakdown of relations cannot be conducive to any constructive or purposeful discussions and progress.”

You mentioned that more are skeptical than optimistic and I can understand why. I’m going to play devils advocate for a minute. Do you think Hunt’s letter is a trap? My wife is a GP and we both went through it thoroughly. From where i sit he could easily back Jnr docs in to a corner with this. If he’s making concessions on the 48 hr working week, and therefore preserving patient care by making sure doctors are less tired, but Jnr docs still strike over the contract, he’ll be able to say that the strike is in fact all about pay.

“But he isn’t. The key safeguard was that trusts were fined if doctors breached the EWTD (Early Working Time Directive). He hasn’t addressed that in his letter. Rather he’s given a vague assurance that doctors won’t. But that’s meaningless without a disincentive for trusts. At the moment trusts are fined if doctors work more hours than allowed by the EWTD. My understanding is that trusts will not have to record doctors hours- and thus will not be fined if their doctors work beyond the EWTD.”

Explains part of the deficit at least. You’re fighting for an independent body for the NHS. What is needed to make this a reality and get politics out of the health service? What can the public do to help with this?

“Public support and awareness is the most important thing. We want members of the public to join us and participate in helping us run the organisation and direct it. The only funding we receive at the moment is, in essence, through crowd funding- that is the other important way in which the public can help us. Other than this, we’re trying to gain traction and support from politicians and major think tanks and academics. A number of MPs have responded very positively to our idea, and we are talking to them. As have several influential academics. For example I recently spoke to Nigel Edwards, the Chair of the Nuffield Trust, and he told me that he fully supported our vision and ethos.”

I see you have also gained the attention of Lib Dems Norman Lamb. He’s been quite vocal recently about the problems in the NHS.

“We’re delighted that he has been vocal in calling for essentially the same thing we have bwpid-screenshot_2015-10-22-21-53-36-1.pngeen calling for. And having someone speak openly with the level of insight and experience he has reflects the strength of our arguments and our ultimate aims and vision.”

You can follow Dr. Khan on Twitter by clicking on the picture.

The movement Dr. Khan talks about and represents is called NHS Survival. You can find out more and show your support for a National Health Service removed from political control at www.nhssurvival.org.

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Transcript of interview with Michael D. Cearns (medical student)

This is a full transcript of an interview from October 9th 2015.

Michael D. Cearns
Michael is a medical student in his sixth and final year of training at a London medical school. He will be one of thousands of junior doctors forced to work under the new imposed contract due to come in on 1st August 2016. I started by asking him what his main reason was for wanting to study medicine.

“I think it’s fundamentally a very worthwhile thing to do with your life. You spend your time doing your best for someone who needs your help, and that alone can give you all the satisfaction you could need from a career, I think.It’s also a great balance. It’s a career you can get your teeth into, because it requires plenty of scientific understanding but allows you to develop clinical reasoning skills, to perform procedures, to make decisions that directly affect people’s lives.”

And before you started did you have a specialty in mind?

“I was always rather interested by the brain, as an organ that contains within it everything you feel, do and think – everything that makes you who you are. Diseases that compromise that somehow take something very important away from you. During my time at medical school I’ve kept my mind open in terms of my career choices, though.”

Obviously a lot has happened to the NHS in the 5 + years you’ve been studying. Has what you’ve seen, especially the row over junior doctors contracts ever made you think about changing your mind about your future career?

“I think medicine is the right career choice for me. After spending this much time modelling myself on doctors and learning the art and science of practicing medicine, I find it difficult to picture myself in another career. That’s not to say that I am pleased with the way things have been going in the NHS recently – it’s obviously becoming clear that lots of doctors would consider leaving medicine or working abroad if conditions became too difficult in the UK. For me, the proposed contract would make life very difficult indeed, and it would compromise patient care, but it wouldn’t make me personally want to stop doing medicine.”

Has there been much discussion, either with your fellow students or your lectures, about what has been happening in the NHS?

“There has certainly been a lot of discussion amongst medical students, as it affects us so directly. My colleagues at my stage in training and I will start as junior doctors in August, when the proposed contract would take effect, so it’s generated as much commotion amongst medical students as it has amongst junior doctors, I’d say.”

It’s clear from all the doctors and nurses I know, and yourself that this fight over junior doctors contracts is about care, but there is still a few out there who believe that this is doctors fighting for more money. Have you found yourself trying to defend against this perception?

“At times, and I’ve certainly seen those opinions out there. In my experience, junior doctors rarely put themselves first. Their first priority is always their patients, and that’s why under the reality of the current contract, juniors clock off the rota at 48 hours a week and start their unpaid overtime, which will always be 10 – 20 hours per week at the least. This is out of compassion for their patients who are sick; to a doctor, an extra few hours is a small price to pay for the sake of a patient who is inevitably in a much worse situation and needs their help. The newly proposed contract discredits this ethic, demanding more of junior doctors who are already maximally stretched across a resource-poor service. The result would be lower standards of care across the board – that’s what happens if you make the same number of doctors work longer, tougher hours. The main reason we’re opposing this is that the very patients we are trying to help would suffer under those circumstances. That said, I’m not trying to claim that doctors don’t think about money at all – they’re human and recognise that this contract would have a very serious effect on them financially. I can’t think of a £22,000 a year job that demands such emotionally charged work, unsociable hours and high levels of responsibility as being a junior doctor. A friend of mine works in consultancy, and her manager said to her ‘when a doctor has a bad day, his or her patient dies; when I have a bad day, someone hasn’t given me a PowerPoint on time’. It speaks volumes to me that that came from someone in the financial sector, not from someone in medicine.”

Have you had a chance to see Jeremy Hunt’s recent counter offer to junior doctors sent to Johann Malawalana?

“Yes, I did. The fact that he has responded in this way means junior doctors have put the message across, which I think is a positive step. Ultimately, there has to be fair negotiation to reach a solution. The problem I had with Mr Hunt’s letter was that it didn’t provide concrete proposals – figures, forecasts, estimates. It tried to convey the government’s proposed ambition, but without altering the original proposal enough for it to marry up with that ambition. In other words, it was likely more show than substance. If you’re changing the working conditions of 53,000 people you have to be able to predict what effects that will really have.”

And what did you make of the publishing of deficit figures delayed until after the Tory Party Conference?

“I must admit it seems a bit politically convenient.”

What did you make of the figures? Were you surprised at such a high amount for just a few months?

“Nearly a £1billion is of course a huge deficit for three months – ultimately if services being provided at the moment are to stay as they are, that deficit actually represents under-funding to the tune of £4billion a year. And if you want to increase service provision – especially routine non-urgent services at weekends – you need more funding to do that.”

“An American style health service certainly would concern me a great deal, but I don’t particularly buy into the view that the Tories are trying to systematically dismantle the NHS with the aim of total privatisation. Were that to be the case, I also don’t think the public would stand for it in the long term. For the most part I try to avoid the party politics side to these arguments; accusing politicians of lies and deceit distracts from the main issues and doesn’t advance anyone’s cause a very long way. That of course doesn’t mean I don’t disagree with the Tories’ approach to managing the NHS, and I’m sure many of my friends and colleagues would interpret recent events in the manner you describe.”

A brilliant POV that unfortunately you dont see much now. Politics is distracting from care.

“Thank you – I couldn’t agree more.”

Just one final question: with everything you’ve been through in the last 5 years, and seeing what’s ahead of you, would you still recommend to people taking up medicine as a career?

“That’s a very good question. Some of my colleagues would probably advise against it. These are turbulent times for the NHS, but from where I sit, the thing that gets doctors up in the morning, makes them work the tough hours and the nights, is the patient and the fact that they can help them. That’s more important than the political rhetoric, the salary or any of the rest of it. In that sense, I would still recommend medicine as a career. The immediate future is going to be both challenging and pivotal in determining the future of the NHS as we know it. I hope that by engaging the public, doctors can secure working conditions that keep the public safe and provide them with healthcare free at the point of need. Aneurin Bevan famously said ‘The NHS will lastwpid-screenshot_2015-10-22-21-53-51-1.png as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it’. We’re still here.”

You can follow Michael through his Twitter account by clicking on the picture.

If we want to Improve our country, we need to take responsibility for it.

stephenpaulblanchard

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Yesterday I walked through the front door with my son. As ever the post was there waiting. While I put our coats away he did his sorting of the mail, and suddenly he stopped. He threw one piece on the ground. He shouted, angrily. It was weird because usually he tries to eat the post, but on this occasion this one piece was going nowhere near his mouth.

I should probably explain here that my son is just over a year old. He’s like a hyperactive puppy on amphetamines. Usually such a happy kid, but right now he was angry. He was shouting (and by now stamping on) a flyer from our local UKIP candidate, who is of course trying to drum up support before May 7th. In our house, like in many UK households, we’ve all been paying close attention to the debates and the interviews from all the…

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