Now if you’ve started reading this because you believe I will be detailing the happenings of a medical/political wrestling match, I’m afraid to say you have been misled. Sorry about that. But don’t despair – you could always imagine the health secretary in a Mexican wrestler’s mask, being sat on by someone with a stethoscope whilst you’re reading, if that makes you feel any better.
I have to admit, this is about the seventh time I’ve started this article. Normally, when I go to write something (especially something angry and political), I just leap into action mode, like a small, chaotic, slightly rubbish, literary gazelle. This time, clearly the fact I am writing for other people (you, dear readers), rather than for my own shouty catharsis, has deterred my inner, crappy gazelle.
I begin, and then think, “People may actually prefer to engrave acorns with Elizabethan portraiture, than read this twaddle.” So I start again.
And then what comes out is just different twaddle, and my thoughts go “Someone may actually die of boredom from this, and then you would be responsible for the demise of an innocent via the medium of terrible writing”.
So I’ve had a biscuit and a firm word with the metaphorical gazelle. Things seem to be going much better now. Although I have to admit to you all, this was merely a very long winded introduction. I am not really here to talk about spiritual Savannah animals, or even biscuits (although, I am always up for a cheeky conversation about chocolate Hobnobs and the like; I draw the line at Rich Tea though. They’re abhorrent).
I was going to talk (well, type) about the ever-looming American presidential election, more specifically focusing in on Donald Trump, whose well-funded idiocy is often mistaken for political know-how, and that hair – oh Donald, the hair! I know Boris Johnson pulls it off, in his bimbling, bicycle riding way, but the world can only handle one historic hairdo of such ‘interesting’ character… I am once again getting side-tracked.
Right – back in the room, as they say (I’m not sure who ‘they’ are though). I have changed topic in light of what has been flying across radio waves, ricocheting off every news station, and hitting all the newspapers on the way; the recurrent theme of recent headlines – the showdown between Jeremy Hunt (current Health Secretary for the UK, former Culture Secretary) and the junior doctors.
Now I’m going to give you a rundown of what has been a-happening, in layman’s terms, since there is not a handy five years to sit everyone down and run them through the intricacies of this on-going, governmental-medical clash.
If you are already clued-up and raring to go, you could just zone out for this bit – maybe make a cup of tea, or feed the cat. If, like most of the population, you have been bombarded by eclectic pieces of political jargon, and shouted at by various media sources in a somewhat overwhelming manner, then you can take this opportunity to clarify what’s going down in the world of the NHS, and then impress everyone with your shiny knowledge and new found savviness.
Jeremy Hunt (along with his lackeys) is pushing for what he is calling, a “seven day NHS”, and instigating changes to the contracts of junior doctors, which increases their basic pay.
Now frankly, neither of those things sound terrible. In fact, from that sentence, you may be thinking, ‘where is this man’s prize? Why have we not erected a mighty plinth with a larger-than-life, embronzened Jeremy Hunt atop it – surely this man is a medical messiah?’.
And I can see why you would be thinking this. The option of 24/7 healthcare and more money for the hard-working individuals who save lives day in, day out, sounds truly wondrous.
Here comes the ‘but’.
But, the doctors’ reply to this is, we already have a ‘seven day NHS’. These people; the doctors, junior doctors, nurses and health workers, put in endless hours of overtime to continually care for us and work unsociable hours in order to provide the best quality of patient service they can. And quite rightly, they currently get supplemented with better pay for putting in this extra effort to sustain our health service. The idea of ‘increased basic pay’, well (deep breath everyone), frankly, seems like a ploy to make the government look beneficent, appreciative and generous, when in fact, most junior doctors will lose money from the new scheme, since Hunt wants to alter what hours are classed as ‘unsociable hours’, so they will no longer be compensated for performing late-night toe-transplants and the lark…
Whilst I’m on a roll, let’s not forget that the term ‘junior doctor’ can be a wee bit misleading – it refers to anyone still completing their 15 years training (a marveling gasp, would be appreciated as you read that bit, if you please), whilst still being fully-qualified professionals.
Currently, the system is not perfect, but these dedicated medical custodians don’t go through the rigorous, challenging, and bloody lengthy process of becoming a doctor to then completely abandon all responsibility. The vast majority of people working in the NHS rank the quality of patient care and treatment above all else, so the fact that the junior doctors went on strike for the first time in 40 years (on the 10th February 2016) shows that the changes Hunt is pushing to make, must be detrimental.
Launching an official ‘7 day’ National Health Service will stretch resources thinner than ever before and threaten the safety of all involved. Patients’ health could well be risked since in order to achieve this ambitious all-week service, Hunt wants to remove the safety measures which stop junior doctors working excessive hours, in order to get people working for longer.
People argue ‘Tired doctors make mistakes’, and quite sensibly. No matter how well qualified your surgeon is, you don’t want your spleen ending up in a cup of coffee because they’ve fallen asleep at the scalpel – it would be caffeinated chaos! And possibly quite unhealthy (although I’m no medical expert, so don’t quote me on that – a beverage stimulated spleen may be an effective remedy for hay fever, for all I know).
And whilst we’re at it, Mr Jeremy H is also going around with his little metaphorical, government scissors once more, and cutting the bursaries which support student nurses in funding the vast expense of their training and studies, up and down the country.
I hope the situation is now a bit clearer, and you feel truly enlightened as to the entire situation, and why, in fact, we are not constructing substantial Jeremy statues across the land. If this article has done its job, you are now, not only bursting with facts, and a ninja of knowledge, but you feel an air of pro-activity wash over you (this is all getting a little bit yoga-video-esque). If you are feeling so inclined, there are many things you can do to support the junior doctor’s campaign, and the on-going struggle. You can write a grumpy article (ahem), write to your MP, or even send them a video using the power of mime to express your feelings on the topic (originality points will be awarded). Also, have a look at what events are going on in your area, and see what you feel like supporting – in Leicester, we had a “Meet the Doctors” campaign going on where members of the public got to interact with the medical professionals, and see what is really going on, from their perspective. And, and (I’m feeling rather riled up myself, now!), you can go onto the British Medical Association website and have a look-see at your nearest picket line, so you can wander down and make your views heard on the front line, as well.
Now, you’ve made it. This is the end. If you’ve trawled your way through all of that, have a breather, and biscuit on me (just not a rich tea – they must be shunned, as aforementioned) – it is well deserved.
By Tilly Wheatley