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.

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The forgotten weapon that could help save the NHS

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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!

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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!!

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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!”

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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!