Today’s guest blog is from Andrew Swain, who is a Medical Anthropologist and NHS Worker from Durham.
On Thursday 24th March, a group of medical students and health care advocates met in the school of Medicine at Newcastle University to discuss the health reforms and their futures as health practitioners. It’s a sad day indeed when this is needed, most of all when the information is not readily available through mainstream tuition or through the mainstream media. With the media filled with stories of the atrocities to come, it is easy to become bamboozled by the shear scope of what the government is planning. Those of us who are engaged enough to watch the media, listen to critiques on Radio 4, read the BMJ or Lancet will be only too aware of the reforms set in motion for the NHS amount to no less than the largest structural reform since the systems inception in 1948 (House in Lancet 2011:797).
‘My fear is that the reforms will lead to an increasingly unequal society…’ Anna Furniss, Third Year Medical Student
Quite frankly it stinks- the lack of consultation, the fumbled statistics and doggy dealings, the finance driven justifications and the cloak dagger privatisation that all amounts to a pitiful excuse for a democratic nation state. This meeting was held to raise awareness of this fact within the medical and health student body and to help direct opposition to these changes.
First of all, this event should not be needed. Ideas sessions are crucial for consolidating ideas, but we should already know what is going on in government. It should be open knowledge, and not convert as much of these reforms seem to be, especially when people’s health and futures are at risk.
The meeting, although modestly attended (it’s the end of term and deadlines loom) heard from Dr. Helen Groom, GP and Keep Our NHS Public advocate, who explained the long and convoluted history of successive governments attempts to privatise the health care system. Discussion bounded to and fro between fears of treatment costs, funding sources, the role of healthcare practitioners, experiences of those receiving treatment, real fears of medical unemployment and of the insecurities for practice in an uncertain future. As students we were particularly concerned with our futures. ‘Training is a huge concern’, says Dr Groom, ‘public health services need to supply funding for training, but with the globalisation of funding and health care provision, training will shift to different parts of the country and it is not clear as to how the funding will be provided’.
Many students sought leadership and encouragement from medical schools. ‘As medical students, we have very little knowledge about what the reforms are, and of what is going to happen to the structure of the NHS. Therefore it is important that medical schools inform students of the changes that are going to affect our careers. We need seminars, talks and discussions of what the NHS is to us now and to raise awareness of what will happen to use as health care professionals in the years to come.’ Anya Gopfert, Second Year Medical Student.
The dissemination of the we’re all in it together mantra for an NHS that will see the local become global to the extent in which the local is lost is unacceptable and morally repugnant for the tens of thousands who depend upon local services. What we need to do as students is to raise awareness among our peers and in gaining support outside of medical circles. Luckily the government seems to be realising that a lot of people are dissatisfied with their plans, and so now is the time to push for them to act on that realisation.
Students, practitioners and health workers of the future: use your skills, get motivated and spread the word- this WILL affect you!!
Andrew Swain, Medical Anthropologist and NHS worker, Durham
Sources Cited: House, J. (2011) UK National Health Service reforms mobilise doctors, The Lancet, Elsevier