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.

Don’t let The Good Ship NHS sink.

rewardingQuestion: if you were responsible for the biggest workforce in the country, one that potentially holds the lives of every man, woman and child in the country in their hands, would you treat them with respect? Would you meet and talk with them directly about your concerns over a stretched service and try to work together to find a solution? Would you think it absurd to create a new contract that removes a cap on lengthy, unfair and unsafe working hours while reducing their pay? If you’re answer is ‘yes’ to these three questions, congratulations – you are not Jeremy Hunt.

quoteI’ve found myself talking to lots of different people over the last couple of weeks about the state of the NHS, and the fight that the country’s junior doctors are putting up. It is of course these people that are making the biggest noise right now; fighting against an imposed contract that is, according to Jeremy Hunt and the Department of Health, non-negotiable (save for one clause) that will, according to the people who actually do the job, make their jobs unfair and unsafe for them and their patients.

jessenHaving seen the visible exhaustion on Jeremy Hunt’s face recently, and his clear contempt for transparency in his department by refusing to answer questions from the public, health care professionals, or even his fellow MP’s, it’s clear that he underestimated the reaction he would get to his new contract. Medics are seen to have effectively just rolled over in the past acombond taken whatever outlandish new proposals have been forced upon them. This is no longer the case. Marches in London and across the rest of the United Kingdom have made it clear that enough is enough. Support has been coming in from all sides, with patients, celebrities and even politicians showing their support. The Junior Doctors are shouting, and more and more people are listening, save the ones who caused this mess in the first place.

shipThis new contract isn’t just about junior doctors – it affects the whole of the NHS. The nurses who work with them, the varied care workers who rely on them, the consultants who train them (and may one day hand over their roles to them) and the students who will become them. When you see that 70% of junior doctors plan to leave the National Health Service if this current contract is enforced, and that the government plans to reduce funding the NHS to the lowest amount since the 1950’s, despite their pledge to create 7-day NHS, you are basically being told that the NHS is sinking fast. It’s a grand ship that’s had so many holes been rammed in to it but no one’s willing to plug the holes. It’s a ship captained by a man who is lying to you about the direction it’s headed, while he secretly signals for more expensive competitors to come along port and starboard side with their own ships that will cost the passengers all their pieces of eights, nines and indeed tens. This captain believes in efficiency and profit at the cost of patient health. The partnership between five UK NimageHS trusts and the Virginia Mason hospital in Seattle is one such example; an establishment that is “renowned for adapting the Toyota lean production system to patient care”. On the face of it, the hospital scores quite highly for standards in America, but as this comparison shows, it measures up poorly against a hard working NHS hospital. This is hardly surprising given that our NHS was rated the best in the world in 2014, with America coming in substantially lower.

protestThe facts and figures are there in black and white. Mr.Hunt’s ability to twist these figures is now being closely scrutinised after serious allegations (backed up with evidence) that he “misrepresented a key study” on weekend deaths. but still this is not enough. Action needs to be taken. Junior doctors have already marched in London, and there will be similar marches round the UK in the coming days. Add to that the British Medical Association will start balloting it’s members on strike action from 5th November, and you realise how terrible this situation has become. Jumior doctors do not want to strike, but they have been forced in to an untenable position, which thankfully, a growing number of the public understand.

I spoke to two individuals who are effectively on either side of the battle – Michael Cearns is a final year medical student in London, and will become a junior doctor in August 2016, when this new contract is set to be enforced. Dr. Hamed Khan is a GP, A&E doctor, and at the forefront of commentating on the junior contracts. I have transcribed their interviews in full, so you can have a glimpse at the different sides of this battle.

wpid-screenshot_2015-10-22-21-53-36-1.pngwpid-screenshot_2015-10-22-21-53-51-1.png

Fear and Loathing in Great Britain: The Real Legacy of David Cameron

4It’s totally normal that when a person is nearing the end of a job, they would want to leave knowing that they had some kind of impact. Barack Obama is clearly thinking of his time in office. I’m sure Zayn Wotisname from that boyband my little girl likes did the same thing. Our illustrious leader, still with four and a half years of premiership left, is clearly doing the same. After all, he said even before the election he would be stepping down after this term in office. He clearly wants to leave the impression on the world stage that he created a “Greater Britain”, yet as I sit here now, I can see David Cameron’s legacy as British Prime Minister will be one of scaremongering, manipulation and segregation (and to a certain degree, swine based debauchery). He believes in a country that cares nothing for its own citizens. He believes in a country more concerned with money than with humanity – a country that he is turning in to a corporate playground with little hideaways for tax evaders. Now you could probably say that this is just the angry rant of some anti-Tory leftie who doesn’t respect the democratic process. You’d be wrong. I accept the result of the General Election. What I deplore is the lies Mr. Cameron told to win that election. I have no problem with the Conservatives. I know many Tories and they are genuinely nice people. What I question is whether the party in power is really a Tory party, or is it like it is in America, with the Republicans being infiltrated by the infamous Tea Party? Now I’m not quite sure what our version of the Tea Party would be called, but I’m pretty sure it would still begin with a ‘T’. Heck maybe it’s UKIP, I don’t know. Either way, if you look at the actions of our six month old government (not the lies we have been told), they do appear to be very similar to a small section of our American counterparts.

2David Cameron’s new Conservative party claims to be the party for working people; that they have the UK citizens best interests at heart. This years Conservative Party Conference seems to suggest otherwise, with every major speech or claim made by a senior Tory minister expertly dissected, derided and more often than not, dis-proven.

1Theresa May stated that we need tighter controls on immigration, repeating the claim she made back in November 2010. It was seen as nothing more than an attempt by the Home Secretary to lay blame on the (apparent) state of the country on people from other countries; people whom, as it has been proven time and again, make more of a contribution to our society than they do a drain. (A full dissection of the Home Secretaries claims, and evidence to the contrary, can be found here). Her speech, whilst trying to make clear that there needs to be a difference between refugees seeking asylum, and “economic migrants”, still left many, including myself, in doubt over David Cameron’s pledge to take 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next five years. This renewed demonisation of migrants, which is “almost devoid of a single factual accuracy”, coupled with the governments increased attacks on the low paid, hard working families, public sector workers and the disabled goes completely against the “cohesive society” soundbite that the Home Secretary coined, with great futility.
imageThis leads neatly in to George Osbourne, as he continued on his austerity journey by announcing he will cut tax credits, despite Mr. Cameron promising before the General Election, that no such cuts would be made. The Chancellor has also gone to great lengths to ignore serious human rights violations as he negotiated trade deals with China recently. A step that even former Tory party chairman Chris Pattem described as “lax” and describing Mr. Osbourne as “very far from traditional Tory instincts”. Showing support for China, as well as Saudi Arabia in a recent back-room deal that saw the worlds dominant oil producer gain a place on the UN Human Rights Council also calls in to question our governments feelings on human rights in this country. This remains a concern as Michael Gove continues to work on repealing the Human Rights Act – a fact that was carefully swept under the Party Conference carpet but is due to progress in the Autumn. It remains to be seen how much the public will find out about this step from the government directly, but I suspect little will be made by them of our links with countries that flaunt human rights to secure multi-million pound trade deals for oil and arms.

1jeremy-huntAnd then there was our trusted Health Secretary and rhyming slangs best friend, Jeremy Hunt. A man who has made no secret of his ambitions to be Tory party leader once Mr. Cameron steps down (Mr. Osbourne and Mrs. May are also considered contenders). A man who treats the country’s health service, its employees and its patients with such contempt you have to wonder if keeping Cameron around as leader a bit longer is the lesser of two evils. Mr. Hunt has had a busy month; from insulting Junior Doctors with an enforced (non-negotiated), unworkable, immoral contract, (a story I will be looking at in greater detail in my next piece) to insulting anyone in this country with a pulse by saying they need to work harder, like the Chinese. I’m all for hard work, but that alone isn’t enough. You need investment as well, plus recognition that there are those that are physically unable to work. What happens to them? This poisonous rhetoric of ‘survival of the fittest’ spouted by Mr. Hunt and Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Ian Duncan Smith (or IDS as he’s become known, which doesn’t at all sound like an expensive treatment for infected hemorrhoids) is just another spit in the face for those who struggle, who need help. People who genuinely need a welfare state that is being ripped out from under them. Never mind this being un-British; it’s inhumane.

Then there was the grand finale of the Conservative Party Conference, where David Cameron stood up on stage and performed the biggest work of modern day fiction over seen in a party conference. From describing Jeremy Corbyn as “a threat to national security” by cleverly quoting the new Labour leader but removing any context, (you can see Mr. Corbyn’s full thoughts, in context, here) to proudly declaring that his policies are helping the country’s poor when the opposite has been proven, he has shown nothing but barefaced contempt for the people of this country through twisting facts and figures, or just outright lying to support his own self/friends serving narrative.
imageMr. Cameron has this dream of turning the UK in to a country of “high wage, low tax and low welfare”. In theory this is something that I’m in favour of, well two-thirds anyway. I mean what family doesn’t want more money in their pocket and less to go to the tax man? The thing is that we have tax for a reason; to fund our schools, our hospitals, the upkeep of our roads and waste disposal services etc. This government, as with several before, have gone out of their way to demonise tax when they should be relying on it, championing it. People want more money, obviously, but they also want to live in a country that is kept functioning properly, You only need to look at a survey showing that a vast majority of people in this country would back a tax rise to support the NHS. I honestly do believe that if we could see our tax money in real action, making a difference to our country’s infrastructure instead of just lining politicians pockets, then we would have no real problem with it, but to live in one of the highest taxed countries in the world and to have the problems we have is just plain negligence, It is the reason why we are losing our welfare state and our other vital public services, and it’s clear evidence that the government is not listening to and does not represent the people of the UK.

3There is also the divisive subject of national defense, in particular Trident. Now I totally understand the need to defend your nation’s borders against external threats, but you have to ask if nuclear weapons are really the way to go. Mr. Cameron has gone on record as saying that he would have no problem pushing the button, and that Jeremy Corbyn’s refusal to commit to such a stance undermines national security. Be in no doubt, this is scaremongering at it’s best. Firstly, if David Cameron were to press that big red button first he would be nothing more than a highly paid murderer. Secondly if the Trident missiles were to be launched in retaliation it would not have been that much of a deterrent in the first place. We are constantly told that the biggest threat to our national security right now (current Labour leader excepted) is So Called Islamic State. They don’t have nuclear weapons, they have propaganda, ideology. There is more chance of an IS member already in this country getting in to the Trident system to launch the missiles on our own soil than there is of us needing to fire them off to Syria, Iraq or any other middle eastern country our government has a vested interest in. It makes no sense. Trident isn’t a nuclear deterrent, it’s a political one – something our government can shake to make themselves look big in front of other countries.

5It’s the same argument as in America – calls are growing louder for stricter gun controls because of multiple mass shootings this year alone, yet the trigger happy faithful believe such a move will strip them of any defense against ‘the enemy’, constantly invoking their second amendment right to carry fire arms – an amendment that was invoked in 1791 when muskets were the weapon of choice, not semi-automatic rifles. Times have changed, war has changed. I wish I could say war will stop one day, but I can’t honestly say that, simply because we’re so damn good at it. We always find an excuse to pick a fight, and as we all know, nothing drives the economy faster than war. So why would we stop? The way war is fought has changed – much more divisive, much more guerrilla-like than ‘the good old days’ of the Cold War. Trident is irrelevant. Even military spokesmen have said this, saying that funds would have greater effect being used on weapons and equipment for soldiers on the front line, the ones in all the conflicts we have our feet in around the world. We sit here and berate the Americans for their stupid, antiquated, 200-year old guns laws, and yet we have exactly the same problem here with Trident. The governments priorities are totally out of touch with those of the people.
wpid-img_20151007_175119.jpgDavid Cameron’s legacy will speak for itself when the political dust has settled around his tenure as Prime Minister. The facts above will break through the spin and innuendo that this Conservative government relies so heavily upon, but by that time it will be too late. Austerity will have pummeled those already in financial hardship. Our hospitals will be run by profit hungry conglomerates rather than care providing doctors and nurses. Our children will be packed in a hundred to a room because of the 50% reduction of teaching staff.

One of my favourite phrases is this: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”. So what if it’s from Star Trek that’s how it should be. For so many people that’s how it is. You only need to look at the public reaction to the plight of the Syrian refugees to know that in spite of our own problems, when there are others in trouble we step up to help. Even if it’s just to give a terrified kid a stuffed toy, we step up. Sadly, there is the minority who thrive on secrets, lies, under-hand trade deals and ill-gotten gains. Mr. Cameron and his government has taken that powerful line and changed it to something far more sinister, but appropriate for their view of this world – “The wants of the few outweigh the needs of the many”. Maybe that should be the real New Conservative logo. At least then we’d really know where we stand.

The forgotten weapon that could help save the NHS

image

It’s been a month now since one Mr. Jeremy Hunt, duly appointed Secretary of Health and best friend to rhyming slang, insulted the country’s entire medical staff. A month since the backlash against lies and innuendo supported by twisted facts and figures. A month since social media seemed to go in to meltdown with demands for his resignation, for the truth about his accusations to be laid bare. After that month, and the dust having settled a little, there are some steps being taken to remedy the situation, even if much of the country are still unaware there is a situation to remedy.
image

I’m not here to tell you why we need to save our NHS. I can’t think of another way to say what I have already shouted for my last four articles. Instead I’m more interested in how we are going to save it. If you follow me on social media you’ll have seen me mention a new website www.nhssurvival.org. This website is set up and run by medics and patients, all wanting to preserve the free health care that this country has been lucky to have for the last 70 years. One of its missions is to call for a “Royal Commission on the NHS”, the idea being  it would “allow decisions about the NHS to be made by patients, public and professionals – not politicians”. Now as easy, and as right as it is to lay blame of the state of our health service at the feet of politicians (and lets be honest, almost a little fun) this cannot be the only remedy we should be pursuing to save the NHS.
image

I talked in a previous post about the phenomenon of the “worried well” – people subjected to the disinformation by the media and the twisted facts and figures of the politicians, who feel they are more important than the next. It’s a culture of self-preservation and selfishness that has grown around us for decades – a far cry from when the NHS was first created, in the smoking ruins of the UK emerging from World War 2. In 1945 this country had nothing, and yet the people pulled together to look after everyone. Now I’m not exactly the most patriotic person you’ll meet, but if you are wondering why this country is called Great Britain, this is a huge reason! For an entire nation to band together the way it did after such a relentless pummelling is nothing short of heroic, and here we are, almost three quarters of a century later, watching it unravel.
image

The only way to combat this systemic issue of an increasingly insular society is with education. An entire generation has grown up thinking that it’s ok to waste the time of the health service (and if you read the news you can add the police and fire departments to that list as well). It’s not ok. There was a time when, if you felt there was something wrong with you, you would talk to a family member or a friend to get some advice, instead of rocking up to your GP’s with a sniffle that could be easily gotten rid off by a few gulps of Lemsip (other cold remedies are also available).

Learning how to take care of yourself should be part of the national curriculum. Knowing how your countrys health service is operated and paid for should be compulsory education. Obviously we have first aid, sex education etc. but it should go further than that. We should be sharing how the NHS actually works, its roots. The National Health Service has it’s place in history lessons, science, physical education, social studies (I’m assuming these still exist in school since I left last century?!) The goverments health and education departments should be working together to help solve this problem that they have, be it directly or indirectly created. There are people out there walking around who still believe doctors work 9-5 Monday to Friday and still have time for a weekly 18 hole round of golf. It’s not their fault, it’s what they’ve heard through the rumour mill. Replace the rumour with facts and the NHS will be in a much better position simply because the people who use it will understand it.

A royal commission is essential to keeping the NHS out of the hands of politicians, many of whom have direct links to private health care firms that stand to make substantial financial gains were the NHS to be privatised. Education will help the doctors and nurses, who face an increased work load partly due to those “worried well”, who will be better informed on how to deal with their symptoms without having to seek medical attention, or if that attention is needed who best to see.
image

I’m not a doctor, I’m just someone who is frustrated by the appalling situation within this country regarding its health service. I refuse to believe that the only way we can get away from this selfish insular society and back to that idea of helping each other is to go through another barbaric conflict. We are better than that. We have to be.

Still don’t understand the NHS Crisis? Use The Force!

A3 first

Last week, it was so clear to me. My latest rant on the NHS and #WeNeedToTalkAboutJeremy was written in my head, and I just needed time to type it out of my brain and on to the screen. It was a good rant too, questioning whether the BBC is fit for purpose to be the non-biased un-political news broadcaster it claims to be (SPOILER ALERT: it isn’t!) and how the UK government has used its contacts in finance to help further the privatisation of the NHS, which they still, to this very day, deny is happening.

My wife came home half way through my rant. She was late, dishevelled, exhausted. Just another day at the GP surgery. She’d left home at 7am. It was now close to 9. She’d had no breaks. The food she’d taken with her for the day was still in her bag. I stopped my rant to sit with my wife.

The next night I sat back down, in front of that draft and tried to pick up where I’d left off. I couldn’t. That baton that I’d laid down for myself was glued to the floor. I read through and there were some good links in there; questioning how the BBC could be run impartially when a Tory chosen former Bangkok governor with proven links to the private health industry was the broadcasters’ trust chairman, and had launched an investigation in to the BBC’s coverage of NHS privatisation as being too “liberal”. Better yet when the current BBC chairman, who was already a “business ambassador” of the Prime Minister, was recommended to replace the outgoing chairman was being investigated for involvement with tax avoidance at her job with a multi-national bank. Oh there were lots of other ideas and theories, but that’s all it was; ramblings. Yes, I was linking to sources, but it all felt so…futile. I realised the problem; I sounded like Fox Flippin’ Mulder!!

A2

Fox Mulder – you know him; main character (played by David Duchovny) in the soon to be revived X-Files TV show. A character that repeatedly shouted to anyone who he thought would listen about government conspiracies, the truth being out there and to trust no 1. My four previous articles had gathered quite the attention, and thanks to the lovely people on social media, have been seen by thousands – and let me tell you this; for someone who gets excited seeing his reader stats go in to double digits, this was quite the coup. The problem with this fifth article was this; for all the attention the previous four had received, I was still talking to people who were missing the point, or who didn’t have a clue what I was talking about. Some don’t even believe that there is a crisis within the NHS. I tried so many ways to explain the whole sordid, complicated affair, but I doubt I really made much difference.

The question was, how could I make this ongoing struggle to save the Health Service more relatable to people who didn’t know or understand, or didn’t want to know or understand. Then, like that flying frisbie in the warm summer sky, it hit me:

“Star Wars” I screamed. “This whole thing is like Star Wars!”

A4

Now I want to make myself quite clear; comparing a 30 years + cinematic (yes, fictional, I know!) space opera to the very clear and present danger that our NHS faces may come across a little tactless and a bit of a joke, and yes I am trying to be more light-hearted this time. But as those who know me will testify, I take my Star Wars very seriously. Not as seriously as Batman or Superman, granted, but it would have been extremely difficult to link in saving our NHS with the Dark Knight. Plus it would have just resulted in one inevitable conclusion: “I’m Batman”!

If you’re not so good with the entire Star Wars thing, it’s basically a classical good versus evil story where a small group of power hungry individuals are hell bent on lying to all the surrounding planets so they can get in to power and rule over them with increasing disdain for the people. Sound familiar now?! Allow me to break this down for you a little more….

Credit: Huffington Post

Credit: Huffington Post

  • We have our NHS, Star Wars has its “galaxy far, far away”. That’s what this battle is about – saving our “galaxy” from an unwanted authoritarian power who wants to rule for no other reason that personal (and financial) gain.
  • Next we have the all important Force; that mythical power source that connects all living things and can be harnessed by those with the knowledge for good deeds or bad. In our battle that’s the media, and both sides – the dark and the light – are using their skills to the best of their ability.

    Credit: Guardian

    Credit: Guardian

  • The Evil Galactic Empire is too easy; the Conservative government. Using secrecy, lies, manipulation and its well-trained hoard of right-wing dark-side-of-the-Force inclined Stormtroopers to bombard their way in to power and overthrow any resistance that could stop them from destroying the galaxy (and lets be honest, the universe!).
  • The Empire built a battle station – the Death Star; its very presence creating fear, destroying the galaxy one piece at a time. Sounds much like The Health and Social Care Act 2012, which enabled private companies to dismantle and either take control of parts of the NHS, or close them down.
  • Our doctors, nurses and other NHS staff are quite clearly the Jedi Knights. Characters from all corners who sacrificed everything to become powerful and respected keepers of the peace. Now slowly whittled down by being overstretched and under valued, soon to be hunted to the verge of extinction with numbers of potential new recruits getting thinner and thinner.

    Wordpress

    WordPress

  • This presumably means that our equivalent of the SIth Lords would lead us to equate Darth Vader (the biggest, baddest villain in the galaxy) with Jeremy Hunt. This is where the analogy takes a break for a second, simply because Mr. Hunt doesn’t even come close to being as awesome as Lord Vader. Yes, we have since found out that inside that walking iron lung beats the heart of an annoying whiny man-child with “mommy issues”, but this still holds Vader in much higher regard than Mr. Hunt will ever command. It would also imply that his boss Mr. Cameron would be the Emperor, but as I suggested after the results of the 2015 General Election, that role has long since been filled by Rupert Murdoch.
  • The BMA now, finally looks to be vying for the role of the Rebel Alliance. It’s taken them a while to get their act together, but after this weeks announcement that they will not be re-entering negotiations on junior doctors wages (the Sith want to cut them!) the British Medical Association are standing by their Jedi members and are ready to fight.
Credit: Scrubs

Credit: Scrubs

I was explaining this analogy to a friend of mine, and he stopped me with a question: “In all of this, what are you?” I was stumped for a second, not like it was important. I mean I’m sure as heck not a Jedi, nor part of the Rebel Alliance. I’m no prophecy bearing farm boy, or cheeky rogue smuggler, nor am I a coming of age princess (except on Thursdays!). I’m not a walking carpet, nor a beeping doomed droid. That airborne Frisbee hit me again;

“I’m an Ewok”

Leaving the cute and cuddly analogy aside, we’re talking about these seemingly insignificant creatures who have little or no knowledge of the Force, and were happy going about their lives on the vast outskirts of this raging battle and yet have heard of the Galactic Empire and it’s stupid Sith Lords choking their way through the galaxy.

This friend of mine, like me, is a Star Wars nut. We Star Wars nuts have one (of many) grudges against the creator George Lucas. A character so infantile that you want to slap him round the face with a Rankor tale. One that has such a grasp of the English language, and is so badly orientated that he often walks in to and gets locked in places he wishes he hadn’t (public toilets). Yes ladies and gentlemen, Michael Gove is Jar Jar Binks!!

"MEESA GUNA LOCKA IN DA PEE PEE PLACE - BACKA BACKA!!"

“MEESA GUNA LOCKA IN DA PEE PEE PLACE – BACKA BACKA!!”

I’ve been trying to work out where we are in the story right now. I put us somewhere between Episodes III and IV. The reason I say that, is that the evil Empire is in power now. The voices of those persecuted are rising. The rebellion is gearing up. They’re out there on Yavin 4 right now. They’ve got some X-Wing jets and some pilots. Pretty soon you’ll hear the roar of #NHSSurvival. You’re about to see A New Hope!

May the NHS be with you, always

Lightsaber-better-660_0PS. If anyone at Lucasfilm or Disney are reading this, this comparison between our Health Service and your multi-million dollar property is just to highlight a point, so please don’t sue!

An Eloquent Rant: Hashtags, The NHS, and the Desensitised Population

AHashtag

As I sat down to start writing this, I was surrounded by a storm. A Twitter-Storm, but none the less, mud was flying. On Sunday 2nd August 2015, hot off the heels of #ImInWorkJeremy and #WeNeedToTalkAboutJeremy, we had #SaySorryHunt; which kind of feels like the Return Of The Jedi of the ongoing NHS Hashtag Wars. I’m not belittling the work of anything that shines a light on Jeremy Hunt’s ongoing attack on the NHS, and the manipulation of the media to create fear and distrust between medic and patient, but I do at the very least question the hashtags target. This is because it is taking aim at one man. Yes, it’s the Health Secretary, the man responsible for running the NHS and also responsible for the ridiculous state it’s in, but Mr. Hunt is a small part of a much larger beast that wants to devour our health service and spit out it’s bones. Mr. Hunt is never going to apologise for his actions because he thinks he’s doing the right thing. Quite clearly he’s not going to change his mind. And even if we get a vote of No Confidence in his abilities as Health Secretary, there will be another to take his place, and continue with the policies that were created within an institution that has been wanting to privatise the NHS for years; the politicians.

A1Twitter

On Sunday morning I was doing my regular patrol of the Twitter-sphere and came across a rather inflammatory tweet from A2DaviesMPa Member of Parliament. Geraint Davies, “Labour & Co-operative MP for Swansea West”, has since deleted this tweet from his feed (and replaced it with another that supposedly has more clarity, but still making general and harmful statements) presumably because of the responses he received from people who actually work as GP’s, and within the rest of the medical community. Now it may well be that the MP thought he was doing his job as a public figure by sharing something that he’d learned, however as someone who has claimed to be a supporter of the NHS in the past, and as someone who has a career in the public spotlight, you would think he would know better than to share a confusing and wholly unsubstantiated statistic with a public that are already in fear and confused by doctors. There is no doctor that I know that would delay a cancer referral because of cost. This is another unsubstantiated, libellous attack on GP’s

A3FBchat

A conversation on Facebook between myself and a colleague.

It is we, the public that are caught in the middle of this of this battle between medic and politician (which, despite what the latter would have you believe, started with their reprehensible behaviour towards the medical profession), and yet many of us don’t know it’s happening . After years of mis and dis-information from certain branches of the media, coupled with Mr. Hunt’s demoralising speeches on “lazy” work-shy doctors, high waiting times, cancer scares etc. the people of this country are either scared and distrusting, or have simply no interest. Even with the “NHS Hashtag Trilogy”, people are still not getting the point of what thousands of medical professionals are trying to say. I’ve had multiple conversations on social media with people trying to understand what it is I, along with thousands of others, have been trying to get at. Lots of people still think that #ImInWorkJeremy and #WeNeedToTalkAboutJeremy is all about doctors complaining they don’t get paid enough. Of course, that is not the case at all. And it’s so frustrating!

There are also those I spoke to who had no idea what #WeNeedToTalkAboutJeremy was even about. For all they knew, Jeremy Clarkson had been secretly filmed stumping his toe on a plank of wood and had wondered outside to punch a gibbon! Even people within the media didn’t know what this Twitter trend was on about, and that’s a sobering thought. Jeremy Vine was one of many news presenters that I wrote and tweeted, asking them to explain why this massive online backlash against the Health Secretary wasn’t being reported. To his full credit he was the only one that replied, but as you can tell from the conversation, he had no idea what any of it meant. Once he dug deeper, he seemed to get the picture.

A short conversation between myself and Jeremy Vine, the day before he tweeted a link to my article on #WeNeedToTalkAboutJeremy

A short conversation between myself and Jeremy Vine, the day before he tweeted a link to my article on #WeNeedToTalkAboutJeremy

This is what the NHS is up against – the desensitised population. The fact that people still do not the know the plight of the NHS and the damage caused by the Government is not their fault. Despite living in a world so well connected through communication, which should be widening our eyes and ears, we have become an increasingly insular society. We are surrounded by and are connected to multiple sources of information, yet have the ability to choose to read only what we’re interested in. On Twiitter I follow a raft of writers (and now NHS staff), while the person next to me just follows gossip sites giving the latest celebrity gossip. On the BBC app, we can choose what type of news we would like to be informed on, and remove from our feed the ones we don’t care about (not that it matters about the BBC when we’re talking about #WeNeedToTalkAboutJeremy – their silence on this continues!).

We have our own lives to lead, and our own stresses and strains to deal with in an increasingly frantic world. To quote one person I met today: “why are you worried about the doctors? It’s not like they won’t have a job any more. They’ll probably earn more money “. True, maybe they would, but like we all know, that’s not what this fight is about. It’s about the National Health Service. Keeping free health care for future generations. The fact that people always gravitate towards the money is just another example of the type of society we live in.

A5Rail

If you replace “rail” with “hospitals”, and “passengers” with “patients”, this will explain precisely what the health service will look like if privatised.

Take the rail industry as a prime example. This once publicly owned transport network went through a complete privatisation programme between 1994 and 1997, and it remains one of the worst performing rail networks in the western world, with continued delays in service and hikes in ticket prices. This is the epitome of privatisation, and the reason why we cannot let this happen to the Health Service. The very nature of private business is to make money through providing a service. There is always a bottom line. Cuts may be made to stay in the black. Shareholders will always come before the service users. In the case of a service that provides medical care and treatment, surely this would be completely unacceptable, as cost cuts would be potentially life threatening to the “customer”. If you’re lucky, maybe you get a private health care company that is financially well off. Maybe they’re able to provide you with services that you hadn’t thought you needed. You may be sold on the idea of this extra treatment, or diagnostic tool, or insurance product, for extra piece of mind. It would be the medical equivalent of PPI’s!

A6Competition

On 1st April 2013 (the date doubtless ringing alarm bells!), The Health & Social Care Act 2012 came in to force, much to the utter dismay of medical professionals. What the government dressed up as a step to making the Health Service fit for the modern world, was seen by those who actually know and work in the sector as ” the final stage in the systematic dismantling of the NHS […] carried out by stealth” (Doctor Youseff El-Gingihy, Guardian- 30 March 2013). 

A7Guardianquote

Doctor Youseff El-Gingihy writing in The Guardian, the day before the Health and Social Care Act 2012 came in to force.

One major part of this act was to open up the medical field to competition. In much the same way as the opening up of the country’s telecommunications industry, it allowed private medical firms to swoop in with the promise of a better service than provided by the public one. The idea was apparently that doing this would help drive up health care standards through business competition offering more patient choice. The fact is that even before this act came in to force the “marketisation of the NHS has driven up costs and produced worse results”, thus repeating the failings of the privatisation of the rail network. It was made abundantly clear to those who understood this unknown (to the public) yet enforced legislation, that patient care would inevitably be reduced while “there are huge profits to be made for private healthcare companies”.

5ProtectNHS

This is what the diligent, hard-working staff at the NHS want to stop, because they know full well it will compromise patient care. Full stop. Yes, their salary is effectively being cut due to unfair contracts being imposed by the Health Secretary, and that’s insulting for the medics and all others with cuts or without pay-rises while politicians at Westminster receive a pay rise. Yes, they work exceedingly long shifts and often unsociable hours, but that’s part of the job. What they despise is two things:

  • The blatant bad-mouthing and lack of respect from politicians and the media who make unsubstantiated, scaremongering claims and accusations based on twisted facts and figures.
  • The thought that they will one day be forced to put the size of a shareholders bank account over the care of a patient.

This insular society we live in has distracted the public from the fact that they are slowly losing their NHS. Free health care will soon be a thing of the past, and many people seem to neither know or care. There’s too many other things to worry about in life, “there will always be doctors”. We’ve had almost 70 years of the NHS, and as time has gone on we have taken it for granted. As time has gone on we have become an increasingly self-important society, where no one has bigger problems than us. This, coupled with the ridiculous scaremongering stories by the press and ill-informed politicians has created the “worried well”, who believe that because they “haven’t stopped sneezing all day” (true story – hay fever!) and because the health service is paid for by their taxes, they deserve to see a doctor more than someone who has chest pain and is in a full on heart attack. We as a society have forgotten to take care of ourselves, of each other. We rely increasingly on professional medical advice for symptoms that are in no way serious, while removing that attention from someone who actually needs it. This is why the NHS is stretched beyond breaking point, and this is why private companies can swoop in and save the day, as long as you have a credit card!

On a personal note I feel it’s time for me to stop talking about this for a bit. Talking people can’t hear a whisper, and yet when you shout at the top of your voice for too long, those people just turn and walk away. No matter what you take from everything I have written on this NHS fiasco, remember this: there is currently an online petition to debate a vote of No Confidence in Jeremy Hunt. Parliament requires a minimum of 100,000 signatures for a debate to be considered. The number is now way past that at over 211,000, and it’s still growing. If nothing else, keep one eye on this. If this Government continues to come back with ridiculous defensive statements based on the same twisted facts and figures that they have fed you for so long, or if they do not even call for a (serious) debate, then you have hard proof (more so!) that this Government does not have your best interests and those of your friends and family at heart.

a8PETITION

This isn’t about Doctors or Nurses, GP’s or Consultants. It’s about our Free Health Service

Yesterday morning, the silence was broken. Fifteen days after Jeremy Hunt made his inflammatory speech at the Kings Fund in Central London, giving NHS consultants an ultimatum on working weekends, and describing the rest of the staff as “lazy” and over-paid, the desperate voices of those people he bad-mouthed and those who support them were set free. After spending over two weeks building up in the virtual pressure cooker of social media, traditional news outlets have finally started to take notice.

Twitter

Jeremy Vine used his Twitter feed to break two weeks of silence around #WeNeedToTalkAboutJeremy.

Jeremy Vine is the first mainstream media broadcaster to openly take notice of #WeNeedToTalkAboutJeremy. He neither supports nor ridicules, merely highlighting the fact that there is a story here. Whether he decides to take it further and make it part of his Radio 2 show remains to be seen, but the fact that he recognises it, and has put it in the public arena, means that the hard part is about to start.

The public’s take on this is crucial, and the petition to debate a vote of No Confidence in the Health Secretary could be seen as a risky move. What is seen as a democratic register of the public’s view by some can also be questioned for it’s validity – ‘it’s just NHS staff signing’ or ‘people are just bored’. I mean if you can get a petition going to get a flavour of low fat yoghurt back on the supermarket shelves you could petition for anything. The danger with this petition was that the public wouldn’t take it seriously; that it was ‘those doctors whinging again’. Which is sad because that would miss the point completely.

petition

Reputation is everything in a career, especially in one as publicly scrutinised as the NHS. Mr. Hunts speech, where he (among other things) put the emphasis on consultants and their apparent refusal to work weekends as the reason for higher patient deaths on Saturdays and Sundays (totally wrong), has made a scapegoat of that particular senior role in the health service, while still allowing the Health Secretary to appear to maintain the view that he cares for the NHS. He turned the blame of failure of weekend access on a group of people who, yes, do have an opt out clause in their contract so they don’t work weekends but, as you will be able to read already in the Mirror, and from this weekend in the Independent, “88% of consultants are already working weekends”, based on a survey by the BMA of almost 900.

Independent

Preview of Independent cover – Saturday 1st August 2015

The Mirror starts to expose the lies.

The Mirror starts to expose the lies.

Here’s the truth about doctors, and I can say this because I’m married to one. People don’t become doctors or nurses for a dream working week. They don’t sign up because they’ll have time for lengthy breaks during the day, and they certainly don’t do it for the money. People become doctors because they feel they can help, they can make a difference. They spend at least 10 years training and honing their skills to be the best they can be before they are officially qualified, and even then, throughout their entire career, they never stop honing and training. They spend an increasing amount of time in an environment that never stops, having to tell patients often horrifying/heartbreaking truths, while diagnosing conditions from their encyclopaedic medical knowledge, all the time speaking to patients who may be as nice as anything, or rude and uncooperative.

Now here’s the thing about medical professionals – none of that bothers them. They will never complain about their job because it’s what they love, it’s what they signed up for. Long hours, no breaks, finishing late – it’s all part of the job, and that includes working at weekends. Doctors accepted this ages ago because of how our modern society functions. Thousands of people working shifts which includes weekends, and the staff at the NHS knew they would have to adapt to that. What staff at the NHS do not appreciate, is their own boss telling them that they are useless, they’re not doing enough and should work more but be paid less. This whole notion of a seven day working week for the NHS already happens because of demand and need from the public, but there is one fundamental question nether Mr. Hunt nor the Health Department has answered – how will this be paid for? For a hospital to be fully functional at the weekend extra staff of all levels are required. Then there’s support teams outside the hospital walls; social care workers, councillors etc. They will all require funding, which the the £8bn the Government pledged in the manifesto will barely touch.

stethoscope

Here’s another thing about medical professionals; we, our society, will always need them. There will come a point where you need to make an appointment to see that nurse, or you need to sit down with a consultant, or you may need to pay a visit to A&E. The thing we are fighting for is how those life-saving services are going to be funded. We live in a capitalist society so all those man hours, knowledge and equipment need to be paid for. Time is money, and that money must come from somewhere. Do we really want to squander a universal free health care system that is paid for through our taxes and end up paying insurance premiums for check ups and examinations that may well be a waste of medical time, but will create a profit?

While I sit here telling you about all this, the National Health Service is being dismantled right in front of us. All this media attack from the government is a smokescreen, to turn public opinion against the ‘money grabbing work-shy doctors’ who in reality are working above and beyond what should be realistically expected of them, working way past the end of their shift to make sure patients get the care they deserve. In the meantime those patients are seeing ‘stories’ in certain right wing Tory linked media saying ‘leg pain is linked to cancer’ or ‘neck ache could be cancer’ or ‘Cancer Cancer Cancer’, (remember all the stories where “my doctor ignored all my symptoms and it was cancer”), increasing fear and therefore demand on medical staff way beyond capacity, so doctors have to not only deal with those who require much needed treatment and help, but also the “worried well”. This in turn portrays the doctors as unable to cope with their job, but don’t worry, here’s a privately run medical company who ‘really know how to do their job’ so everything’s ok. Oh, and what’s your credit card details please?

BBC budgetSince GP’s were forced to take control of the budget of all health services for their own locality back in 2010, they had to commission services on an increasingly smaller budget whilst patient demand has also increased exponentially. This has also meant time taken away from running their GP surgeries and stretching patient care even further, not that the doctors would ever let you see that. This model that the government imposed on them, against advice of medical professionals, was set up for GP’s to fail. It is this situation, imposed by the previous coalition government, that has paved the way for private companies to swoop in and take over. We already have the likes of Virgin Health providing their own service. As soon as patient demand picks up, they will be made to pay for extras and eventually the NHS will be nothing more than a brand name, the heart of its ‘free for all’ service ripped out. The public needs to step in and join the fight. The twisted facts that are being released to the media are nothing more than pro-government, pro-privatisation, anti-NHS propaganda, specifically designed to cause fear and confusion among the public.

The battle lines here are very clear; do you trust a government that manipulates statistics and twist figures to serve their own fictional narrative of ‘lazy doctors’, while many of them have their personal links to private health care companies which stand to take considerable profit at the expense of patient health, and who are conveniently recommended to receive 10% pay rises, or do you trust the diligent medical professionals who look after your loved ones without charge, that never complain about their vocation and are forced in to a pay-cut, while being strong armed to working longer hours, but are now fighting to get back their dignity and respect?

The only common ground that the doctors and nurses have with Jeremy Hunt and the current Conservative government is that they both want a seven day NHS. There is already a seven day NHS. The issue is that the Government don’t want to pay for it, so they are turning responsibility and blame on those who are doing the job. This is why it was imperative that the mainstream media began talking about it. Now, with the likes of the BBC’s Jeremy Vine, and the Mirror and Independent getting the story out of social media and in to the full view of the public arena, we can finally get the voices of these hard-working people heard and understood.

Is The UK Government Banning Mainstream Media From Reporting On One Of The Most Important Stories Of The Year?

5SocialMedia

I often ask myself where our society would be without social media these days. It’s become the way to keep in touch with friends and family, see hilarious (some not so much!) pictures and videos, promote businesses films and music….. Social media has also become an invaluable tool for free speech. Something that the mainstream media (TV, Radio, Newspapers) seems to have lost its grip on a while ago.

In my previous article I briefly talked about how our media is paying little or no attention to the storm surrounding Jeremy Hunt’s atrocious attack on NHS staff. That was over the weekend, and I honestly expected that when I woke up Monday morning it would be the top story on most, if not all respectable news outlets. Boy was I wrong!

#WeNeedToTalkAboutJeremy

#WeNeedToTalkAboutJeremy

The reason I had such high expectations was because on Sunday 26th July #WeNeedToTalkAboutJeremy came to life on Twitter. Similar to its predecessor #ImInWorkJeremy, this hashtag was designed to bring together all the thoughts and feelings of the Health Secretary’s latest attempt to undermine our heath service, only this time it was more open to everyone else, as well as doctors and nurses. And boy did this thing come to life! Just one look using this hashtag lead feed showed you exactly what the people of this great country think of a man in charge of the NHS who has no qualifications to be doing so. There was much made of the petition to call for a vote of No Confidence. Awareness was rising. The nation was showing huge interest in this story. As I sit here even now, people continue to spread the word.

So if social media was alive and buzzing, what was the traditional mainstream media doing? Answer: NOTHING. On the radio, TV, websites affiliated with these broadcasters, nothing. And I don’t understand why. Surely the job of the national media and news companies are to report on stories that are in the public interest of this country? I can think of no other story, right now, that is more in the public interest than the future of its health service. Why are they not talking about this?

2LastLeg

Screenshotof The Last Leg YouTube channel, 23:36, Monday 27/07/2015

The only mainstream media outlet that I have seen talk openly on this story was Channel 4’s The Last Leg, where Its host Adam Hills went off on one of his trademark rants calling out Mr. Hunt for his remarks. During this you could practically hear the entire NHS workforce applauding and cheering ‘finally, someone gets it. At last people are listening’. The weird thing is that what usually happens after one of Mr. Hills rants is they are uploaded to the shows YouTube channel. At the time of writing this, that brilliantly succinct rant has not been uploaded.

The biggest disappointment for me in all this has been the BBC. The British Broadcasting Corporation has said not one word. There has been nothing on their TV or radio stations, or on their website. We all know that the BBC has its own issues with the current government, especially ahead of the Royal Charter review, but if a corporation designed to entertain and inform is not going to report on one of the most important and relevant stories in the country right now, then what’s the point of its existence? And I’m saying this as someone who loves the BBC. Sherlock, Doctor Who, Fiona Bruce, Jeremy Vine – these are all regulars in our house, and I dread the day that the Beeb is taken from us. Why they have not reported a word of a story that is practically on their doorstep is beyond me, and if I was a conspiracy theorist I would be saying that the Government is stopping them from doing their job, gagging them. But that couldn’t be happening, not in a free and democratic country, right?

Screenshot of BBC News Website (Health) 00:36 Tuesday 27/07/2015. Also no mention on Top Stories or UK News sections.

Screenshotof BBC News Website (Health) 00:36 Tuesday 27/07/2015. Also no mention on Top Stories or UK News sections.

There has been some signs of hope in all this. The Mirror newspaper has posted a story just recently on Labour Leadership Candidate Andy Burnham, and his intent to pledge a vote of No Confidence in Jeremy Hunt. This is the first national newspaper that has openly mentioned not only the petition, but also the 200,000+ signatures. Interestingly the Guardian have also published a story on Mr. Burnham, ahead of the same press conference on Tuesday 28th July. In their story they make a point of saying that Mr, Burnham, currently Shadow Health Secretary, will be talking on the 70th anniversary of the year that a Labour government that created the NHS came in to power. It then quickly goes on to dissect Mr. Burnham’s role in the Labour leadership battle (which is totally newsworthy) but mentions nothing of the fact that he will be voting No Confidence in his Conservative counterpart when parliament resumes. Once again, a media blackout on the part of the story that affects an entire nation.

Mirror is first national newspaper to talk about petition for vote of No Confidence in Jeremy Hunt,

Mirror is first national newspaper to talk about petition for vote of No Confidence in Jeremy Hunt,

The media will always have an agenda, an angle when it comes to reporting a story. This is something that, as we have become more media savvy over time, we have also come to accept. What is unacceptable is when the traditional media say nothing on a story. When they just keep quiet on a subject like this that is so important to everyone, you have to wonder why. Is there some kind of conspiracy here? Whatever the answer it appears that TV and radio (and much of the printed press) is not up to doing its job, so it’s down to us. We must keep going on social media – our tweets, posts, links etc. are working. The petition is well past 203,000 signatures, and it will only continue to grow if we keep chatting about it. Keep the pressure on, and this Government has to listen. After all, we elected them in to power – we gave them their jobs, they work for us. Not for themselves or the highly profitable private companies they’re chums with, us. These people are our representatives and so far they are not listening to us (Andy Burnham accepted).

If we don’t ensure that this latest attack on our health service is taken seriously, there will come a day where you won’t be able to go to A&E without a credit card. A day when new parents won’t be able to walk out of a maternity ward with their baby without paying a charge at the exit. That’s not us, that’s not what the UK is.

5ProtectNHS

 

UPDATED: Monday 28/07/2015 – 22:00

Not long after this post was first published, at 9am this morning The Last Leg finally uploaded that rant of Adam Hills towards Mr. Hunt. It is unclear why it took three and a half days to do so, but finally more attention is being drawn to the attack of the Health Secretary on the Health Service.

In print the New Statesman is the first publication to openly talk about the feelings of NHS staff since the initial reaction after Mr. Hunt announced his intentions to enforce new contracts, and insulted the entire workforce. #WeNeedToTalkAboutJeremy is highlighted and explains in great detail the reasons why the medical profession is so angry with its boss,

In the rest of TV land, and in all of radio, silence. Thankfully, as we see here, cracks are beginning to show in the media blackout. Word is getting out, people are talking, and it will be a grave social injustice if after everything I have talked about, at the very least, Jeremy Hunt is not removed from his post as Secretary for Health.

Stand Up For Our NHS, Or Really Pay The Price

keep-calm-and-save-the-nhs

A couple of nights ago I was sat with Wife O’ Mine watching DIY SOS. You know the show – Nick Knowles finds a family that’s been through the mill and basically gives them a new house, all with the help of willing volunteers who step to the plate simply to help. The family see the house, they cry, we, the audience cry. We cry because we remember that there is always someone going through a worse time than us, and it makes us grateful for what we have. I also think we cry because DIY SOS, as contrived as some may say it is, represents the best of us – complete strangers pitching in to help other complete strangers. For free. Because it’s the right thing to do.

With that in mind, here’s a video clip I’d like you to watch. It’s about eight minutes long, so please make sure you have the time, if not now then later. Please watch, all the way through. Don’t skip, don’t pause. Please watch, and listen.

That was of course a short piece from the documentary film “Sicko”, from the controversial Michael Moore. While you may disagree with some of the views and politics of both Mr. Moore and Tony Benn, what we cannot ignore is how quickly things have changed since that film was made. Back then in 2007, our NHS was the envy of countries around the globe for it’s high standards of healthcare and it’s clear ‘access to all’ policy, while in America the best healthcare was reserved for those with the fattest wallets (and, if you believe Mr. Moore, even then it wasn’t as good as the UK). So here we are, eight years down the line, and America’s President Obama is spear-heading his own “free healthcare for all” with Obama-care, while in the UK we’re doing the opposite. We’re selling off our publically funded healthcare system a piece at a time. And what’s worse, the mainstream media seem to not want to talk about it.

1jeremy-hunt

Of course, I’m writing this on the back of Jeremy Hunt’s latest dig at medical professionals – belittling the work of hospital consultants and implying that they are “lazy” and don’t work at weekends and nights. Mr. Hunt is saying this to stop the NHS staff from being paid for working unsociable hours and effectively creating a pay-cut. This is when these highly trained individuals have not received a pay rise for the last five years, and MP’s have just accepted a 10% pay rise. Oh, and they get the summer off. The backlash to this outright contempt has been phenomenal, at least in the medical world and in the circles of friends and family of those people. The hashtag #ImInWorkJeremy made a point of showing the Health Secretary just how out of touch he really is from the profession he’s employed to govern. During his speech he never once invited the NHS to sit with him and work out a plan to help shape a better health service. Instead he told them that this is how it will be done, and if you don’t like it you will be punished. This highlights how little respect he has for all the medical staff, and the unwavering crusade to do away with free health care in return for lots of cash .

2HuntPetition

Several petitions have been launched against Mr. Hunt, one even through the government’s own e-petition website. At last count they had over 190,000 signatures demanding a vote of No Confidence in the Health Secretary. Now that’s a pretty big number, so why aren’t the mainstream media paying more attention to this? Why is the medical profession being ignored (except by certain right wing newspapers who seem hell bent on attacking doctors and nurses and, oh yeah, have close ties with the Conservative party)? I’ve been keeping an eye on these mainstream media to see if there is any hint of them covering the story, but have yet to see any direct or indirect reference to the petitions on the TV or radio, and you have to know exactly what to look for on the internet. This worries me, a lot.

If only Graham Norton's idea to help people appreciate the BBC could be applied to the NHS.

If only Graham Norton’s idea to help people appreciate the BBC could be applied to the NHS.

The BBC is one of those companies. It is also, like the NHS, another one of the country’s fine public services, facing drastic cuts ahead of the new Royal Charter. Is that one of the reasons why they are distancing themselves? One of the BBC’s most high profile (and no denying, highly paid) talents, Graham Norton, had an interesting idea to make people appreciate the BBC more: “[..]switch off the BBC for two months” he said in a recent interview in the Daily Telegraph “and everyone would s*** themselves.” It makes sense, following that old adage of “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone”. That strategy could work for a broadcaster. For a health service, a life-line, it’s impractical and immoral. The doctors/nurses/paramedics would never do that, because they care. They care about their patients. This is their Achilles heel, their weakness. The government know this, and like some kind of sadomasochistic super-villain, they exploit it for their own gain.

The only mainstream media outlet that has dealt directly with the petition at this is the Channel 4 show, “The Last Leg” (broadcast live on Friday 24th July 2015). Comedian and host Adam Hills went on one of his trademark rants targeting Mr. Hunt (as well as Michael Gove and his wife) saying that they are “badmouthing some of the hardest working, best qualified people in Britain, who are also woefully under-paid”. What he said in that short segment put succinctly in to words exactly how people in the NHS are feeling without relying on defending themselves against distorted reports and twisted figures. At this point I would usually show you a link to such a clip, and yet despite the usual practise of Channel 4 to upload Mr. Hills trademark rants for posterity, this one has, as yet, not officially appeared (although to their credit they have uploaded the hilarious clip of Mr. Hunt being followed around a car park by a guy playing a Sousaphone!). You have to wonder if the Government has placed some kind of restraining order on this material being made more public. The petition itself continues to grow with as many people as possible thankfully shouting about it through social media. As I sit here writing this, the petition is over 190,000 signatures. It needed 100,000 to ensure that Parliament will consider it for debate. The Government has responded to the petition (just scroll down the petition webpage to see it), but with nothing new – just hiding behind those distorted reports and twisted figures again. They’re trying to get out of their obligation to discuss this, and still the mainstream media say nothing. Interestingly another petition on the same website calling for the total legalisation of cannabis in the UK has 125,000+ signatures and is plastered all over the Guardian’s website, and doubtless others media outlets. I’m not saying this debate isn’t important, it just seems ridiculously selective. Surely the job of the mainstream media is to report on subjects and stories that are in the public interest. I can think of nothing that is more in the public interest of this country than the future of its National Health Service

4Plan.

I refuse to even think that we as a country want to live in a society where the best health care is only available to those with the money. We’re not those people. Nick Knowles proves that! The problem that we have is that we elected a Government in to power who got in on the ticket of fear, and their closest opposition had no clear message on how they would handle things any differently. We put these people in power, but that does not give them the right to lord that power over us. We gave these people their jobs, they work for us, and somewhere along the line we seem to have lost sight of that. So before I sign off I want to point you in the direction of some other interesting articles that will at the very least make you think we are being played.

Remember the recent Fox Hunting debate? The Tories wanted to repeal the ban, the SNP thought they’d flex their newly pumped up political muscles and say “hell no!”? While all that was going on the Government quietly decided to launch an enquiry in to whether the NHS should be paid for through charges and insurance rather than tax. This was not reported in the mainstream media.

The UK’s leading private health care business Care UK has recently been exposed for a lack of care towards its patients, yet still manages to net an impressive multi-million pound profit. This is the sign of what Mr. Hunt is running towards – profit for the sacrifice of care. This was not reported in the mainstream media.

Jeremy Hunt has recently, and quietly shelved a key Tory promise to cap care costs for the elderly. This U-turn has apparently cost the tax payer £100m and is a prime example of the Conservative government not sticking to it’s election promises. This was reported in the Guardian newspaper.

There will doubtless be more loosely relevant stories in the coming days, especially if, as you see in that last article, people within Jeremy Hunts own party are getting annoyed with hm. Still, we must keep shouting. Please spread the news about what’s going on here. Sign the petition, share it. If you’re not sure what’s going on, ask people in the know. Read all the Facebook posts and Twitter feeds, not from the media, but from those who have been fighting to keep your health service safe; the doctors, the nurses, the ones who are on the front line of this ongoing immoral battle. Jeremy Hunt has, with the help of certain right-wing newspapers, convinced an entire generation that doctors and nurses don’t work hard enough, and that they are paid too much. As such respect for doctors is at an all time low. As an example GP’s are viewed as autonomous drug despensers whose (minimum)10 years of training and experience can be usurped by a quick search on Google. Wife O’ Mine is a GP. She returned home from work yesterday afternoon (oh yes, a Saturday!) having seen 76 patients (with one other GP) and spent the entire time apologising. Saying sorry to patients who could not get an appointment to talk about their high temperature of 37 degrees (normal body temperature!). Or saying sorry to a 15 year old boy for “only working 9-5 last week” forcing him to change his weekend plans with his mates. Which is interesting as that was the same day my wife left home at 7am and didn’t get back until 9 that night absolutely exhausted, having had not one break. (She told me she tipped her morning coffee down the sink, at 6pm!). Maybe I should ask where she was while I was with our two young children! She didn’t complain, she never does. Doctors don’t complain, not about doing their job. It’s what they signed up for. They just don’t appreciate being dismissed as overpaid layabouts. Surely government ministers at least can appreciate that?

Perhaps instead of going to the wrong place to get treatment on a bad foot, Michael Gove should talk to his old chums in his previous place of work about educating people how the NHS actually works, like where you should really go for a suspected broken foot. Hint: minor injuries units don’t have 24 hour x-rays, Accident and Emergency do!

Perhaps instead of going to A&E with his kids because he couldn’t get a GP appointment, Jeremy Hunt should have remembered that he runs the Health department and should therefore know that he could have gone to a 24 hour walk-in centre, which were created specifically to relieve non-emergency pressure on already overstretched A&E wards and staff.

Or they could have both gone to their private health care chums. Surely they could afford that, especially with that extra 10%. Wonder if they get mates rates?

Now is the time to back our NHS. Show support for these heroes, because that’s what they are – heroes. If we don’t stand up now, against our government – the self serving supervillains, pretty soon we won’t be able to walk in to an A&E department without our credit card.

Election 2015 Aftermath: The UK Has Been Run By The Same Dictator For Forty Years. How Can We Change That?

Okay, be honest. You did NOT see that coming did you? You woke up that morning and the whole world was about to change. You just couldn’t believe what you were hearing could you? You were shocked, just like me, I still cannot believe that they’ve cancelled American Idol!

I’ll be honest, I have no real feeling towards the long running US “talent” show that gave the world Kelly Clarkson and…..I’m assuming there were other winners? I’m just looking for a witty and amusing way in to talking about one of the the most shocking UK general elections in history!

IMG_20150512_095107

So here we are. The votes are long since counted and now we’ve got a Conservative government for the next five years. Fully unleashed this time, no Liberal Democrats to hold their hand and say “y’know what, maybe don’t do this”. You could probably say that Tories are already on a full assault on the UK; reducing the annual household welfare cap from £26,000 to £23,000, pressing ahead with the removal of the Human Rights Act 1998 in favour of a UK Bill Of Human Rights, giving Michael Gove a job.

Michael Gove looking surprised when he's told he's back in Government,

Michael Gove looking surprised when he’s told he’s back in Government,

Michael Gove, you remember him. Former education minister who famously couldn’t even spell ‘Backa’…..’Bakker’…….’Chewbacca’ – BACCALAUREATE!!! Now in charge of UK justice, the man wanted to block school head teachers from reporting sex abuse in 2013, and ruled out a public enquiry in to allegations of paedophile politicians within Westminster in July 2014. Oh, and also the bloke who locked himself in a commons toilet (my personal favourite). How on earth this man even has a job, any job , never mind in the government, defies logic after his dire record as Minister for Education. Another appointment was to Justin Tomlinson as Disabilities Minister, who had previous voted against protecting benefits for disabled children. I wonder, is David Cameron actually going through his MP’s resume’s, looking at the way they have offended the UK people, and thought “now this will really piss them off”? I’m surprised they didn’t hire Jeremy Clarkson to be “Minster Of How To Really Look After Work Colleagues” #Satire. Much of this government just reeks of a giant middle finger to many people of the UK. For some, the fact that the Conservatives got the majority needed without any coalition just defies logic, especially when the opinion polls said otherwise.

Back when George W. Bush was the American President, I was off doing a bit of world travelling. Broadening my horizons was just one of the aims. During my occasional frantic search for accommodation, I would bump in to like-minded folk from the good old US of A. These Americans, so embarrassed as they were by their leader and their countries reputation, would check in to hostels saying they were Canadian. This would have hurt, especially when the relationship between America and Canada is a long standing joke – “Canada’s like a loft apartment above a really great party” Robin Williams once joked. Maybe here in the UK we had a similar situation. Maybe when being asked by pollsters (that’s people who collated polling data, not people from Poland, m’kay UKIPers!) who they were voting for, they were so embarrassed to tell the truth that they lied? Or maybe they just hadn’t made up their mind. Which ever way you look at this, you cannot blame the electorate. Everyone in this country over the age of 18 has the legal democratic right to vote for who they want in power. That right to vote came at great sacrifice and it should not be squandered or taken for granted. So you can imagine my annoyance, nay anger, when I hear people in the supermarket or the street complaining about the election result and then saying “I couldn’t be bothered to vote, knew this would happen”. 66.1% turned out for this election (up from 65.1% in 2010), that means that 33.9% of eligible voters did not vote. Oh yes, maths! If you are part of this 33.9% and you are complaining about the result you only have yourself to blame.

A lot of people place fault on the voting system itself. This whole ‘First Past The Post’ thing was fine when the race was between two political parties, but with at least eight at the very least attracting serious support from the voters, this system is completely irrelevant and needs to be changed. Proportional representation is something that seems to be called for at the end of every election, because the votes don’t seem to translate directly to seats. This year it was even more obvious that things have to change to really become fair.

_82873519_prop_rep-01Oh yes, graphs! No matter which way you try to spin this, the Conservatives received more votes, but Labour are much closer vote for vote. Scarily, so too are UKIP. You know UKIP. Lead by Nigel Farage who, after losing his seat in Thanet, became the only one of three resigning party leaders to be unable to resign effectively. No, I don’t like UKIP, but others do, just as they like the Green Party etc. That’s part of democracy. Electoral reform will go one step closer to reflecting the voters choices. There are now many petitions going around demanding a change to the UK voting system. Now is the time to get your voice heard and make our system fairer!

Away from the question of fairness, there is one of choice. Some people have blamed the parties opposing the Tories, especially their leaders. “Weak” and “unconvincing” were words I sometimes heard to describe the opposition. (In the interest of fairness yes I did hear some words to describe the current government but they’re not suitable for a serious political article like this. Okay, maybe I just couldn’t spell them!) I was surprised when Nick Clegg kept his seat and feel genuinely sorry for a man that I believe made a huge difference in the last government, simply by being a roadblock in the Conservatives plans. Sadly, all people remember is that he made a mistake and apologised for saying there would be free tuition fees. There will now be a lot of policies being put in to practise by this majority Conservative government that the Libs Dems would have opposed and blocked. The repeal of the Human Right Act is just one known example. Be in no doubt, Nick Clegg will be missed from Government.

Sadly Labour’s former leader will not be missed, simply because we never got to know him. Ed Milliband was jinxed from the moment he beat his brother David in the leadership contest, and from there he was treated, as Jeremy Paxman so eloquently put it, like “a north London geek”. There seemed to be some defence of Ed’s character through the completely unexpected “Millifandom” craze. But even with his apparent burgeoning sex appeal, together with his endorsement from “yoof” friendly anti-establishment “comedian” Russell Brand, and his polished speeches accompanied with apparent new found confidence couldn’t save him from such a crushing defeat.

During a prolonged commentary on my Twitter feed during the aftermath of the election, when we witnessed some impromptu demonstrations against austerity outside Downing Street (including rioting and defacing of a war memorial. On VE Day. Classy!) I made an observation:

_82873519_prop_rep-01

Oh yes, Twitter! I was surprised at the support this comment received. I mean look at those stats – join the retweets and the favourites together and you’ve got double figures! (Maybe I need a reform too?) Still, this comment has stayed with me, and is the main reason for this article. For all the choice we have, the chance to vote, the reforms we want to make it fairer, you have to ask if this democracy of ours is really fair, when we are influenced so much by the media. Rupert Murdoch to me is the one who holds the power and influence over this country. He’s in our lives constantly. Many of us have him in our homes. Every time we switch on a Murdoch owned TV show, or open one of his papers, it’s like willingly inviting some kind of ancient lecherous vampire in to your house. News International is well known as a multinational corporation with it’s own political agenda. Their newspapers including the Sun and Times helped to promote the idea of Nick Clegg being unable to keep a promise, the idea of Milliband being that north London geek, supporting the Tories in England. It swung it’s support in Scotland behind the SNP who romped home to the kind of landslide victory politicians dream of.

I’ve read articles saying that Murdoch isn’t anywhere near as influential as he used to be. Ed Miliiband even said it in his little chat with Russell Brand, but I wonder if he too is now re-evaluating that comment. Murdoch’s power, while diluted in recent years with the phone hacking scandal, the closure of News Of The World, and the public using the internet a lot more to gather information, is still just as potent and as poisonous. I saw that former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair has advised his party that they need to return to the ways of New Labour. That having a more politically centred approach is the best way to get Labour back in to Number 10. Yeah Mr. Blair, that and the huge public backing you received from Rupert Murdoch!

The-Sun-front-pages-compo-001

The relationship between the media and politics has always been a nice cosy one. It’s practically symbiotic. Politicians are media savy these days – they have to be for they’re in front of the camera. And that’s a huge problems. Everything is staged, nothing feels genuine. That’s why Farage was such a breath of fresh air, seeming to come across as a man who says it as he see’s it. Which is wrong by the way but, yes, praise for Farage there.

No British government since 1978 has been elected without the support of Rupert Murdoch. He has effectively been a political public relations machine for almost 40 years. But why is he so interested in British politics? During the investigations as part of the Leveson Enquiry, John Major revealed Murdoch’s long standing dislike of the European Union. It is alleged that Murdoch is strongly opposed to any anti-competition regulations that prevent his vast media empire from expanding. With the UK removed from the EU his empire could start to expand further, away from the prying eyes of Brussels,

sun-snp-scotland ynvly8gzkaxephjqh1x3qif7hbdrjlsun-ed-miliband-front-page

It’s worth noting that the Leveson Enquiry report, published after investigations in to the News Of The World and the general ethics and practises of the British press, while welcomed by David Cameron, has not had it’s recommendations implemented.Ed Milliband wanted full legally binding press regulation, Nick Clegg also wanted to see changes, Cameron didn’t. Nothing has changed. Murdoch’s empire has helped to keep the conservatives in power through fear, casting doubt on Labour’s ability to manage the UK finances and portraying Ed Milliband as a self-serving traitor who would jump in to bed with the SNP at a moments notice just to gain power. All this while portraying the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon as the woman who will wreck our economy, and yet throwing it’s support behind this very party in the Scottish edition of the Sun, The whole 2015 General Election was manipulated by a greedy old man who wants nothing more than to grow his right wing media empire in the UK without any competition or laws to stop him.

B3sRoVwIYAEGb8E

So how do we stop him? Lets be honest, this government aren’t going to do a thing. It’s down to us. We stop buying in to Murdoch’s lies. Put down his papers; The Sun, The Times, The Sunday Times. Authors – don’t use the Authonomy website any more – it’s owned by Murdoch, as is Harper Collins Publishers. Oh, and Sky TV BSkyB is still 39.1% owned by Murdoch, so switch off your Sky too! If he doesn’t have a reason to be in the UK, he’ll up and leave. So can you do it? CAN YOU??!

Note: Sky TV UK has just bought Sky Deutchland and Sky Italy from 21st Century Fox. This will create ‘Sky Europe’. Draw from that what you will.

Right, I’ve got the latest episode of The Blacklist recorded on Sky+, so I’m off! I will jut say this – watch this government closely. Very closely. I have to wonder if doing things like hiring Michael Gove to repeal the Human Rights Act is a distraction. No one expects it to succeed. Scotland have already said ‘no chance’. So what else are they doing in the background, hmm?

In the meantime, here’s a fun game – LET’S ALL SLAP MICHAEL GOVE!!

Enjoy.

Untitled