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!

Stand Up For Our NHS, Or Really Pay The Price

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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.

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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 .

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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

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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.