By 999 Call for the NHS, Aug 8 2015 06:02AM
I wrote a letter to my MP, Right Hon Grant Shapps, and posted an edited version in the comments under the Independent article, my opinion only. Maybe a little militant, a bit controversial perhaps, but it's how I feel on this issue. Text is here.
"I am a Cambridge-educated consultant paediatrician. Until recently I was barely political but Mr Hunt has changed that somewhat. As a result I know a few things I hadn’t known previously:
- I know that a stated aim of the Conservative Party is the privatisation of the NHS.
- I know that the aim of Mr Hunt’s recent statements is to convince the public that:
1) the NHS is of low quality (it is imperfect but it is the best in the world) and
2) overpaid workshy doctors are a major obstacle to service improvement.
- I know that these statements are based on:
1) a demonstrably erroneous interpretation of available data regarding death rates,
2) lies about average consultant income,
3) misleading impressions about consultant weekend working opt-out rates, and
4) exaggeration of the likely impact of enhanced weekend working.
That’s what I know, what follows is what I believe to be likely:
- I guess that Mr Hunt (not a stupid man despite his alma mater) knows we will oppose these “reform” plans, not because they will be financially ruinous to junior doctors (many in their 30s with children, mortgages etc.), nor because they will be detrimental to our family lives (although that would be reason enough for a less committed workforce), but rather because they are based on unsound premises, and because there is no evidence that they will achieve the stated aim, which is to promote a 7 day high quality NHS.
- I guess that he plans to use our opposition to make us a scapegoat for a much exaggerated and publicised poor NHS performance, drawing attention away from the chronic governmental underinvestment and mismanagement that is actually to blame. If people no longer value the NHS they will not love it, and if they do not love it they will not react when it is dismantled in favour of an insurance-based system.
This is clever (if underhanded) stuff. It is a neat solution to the genuine problem of funding the service. In your private system there will be more than enough doctors and nurses, and they will be happy with their hours and their wages. This is because they will be treating far fewer patients, because they will doubtless deliver an NHS-branded skeleton service (think US-medicare) to the 'have nots' of society, those who do not have the income or employment to provide a decent health plan. I will not discuss further the unnecessary tests and procedures prevalent in insurance-driven, litigation-heavy healthcare systems like the one that is likely to succeed our NHS if you have your way.
As an aside I note the deafening media silence (some notable exceptions) regarding this vocal and generally eloquent, nuanced, and evidenced social media campaign, and wonder how much influence the Tories have over the popular press. I also note the evidence that there are those in the Conservative party who will benefit financially from the ‘reforms’ you have fought so hard to bring to pass.
Jeremy Hunt has the chutzpah to state that he will enforce contract change if we do not submit, I suggest he and his leader underestimate how strong is the feeling throughout the NHS regarding this issue. We will fight, we may even strike (there are ways to do this without harming the public). You think we won’t because we value the love of the people too much; I believe we might, if we have to, because we value the health of the people (all of the people) more than we value their love.
This is not about us, Mr Hunt (doctors will likely do far better in your private system than we do now), this is about the population we serve. That kind of motivation is something your government may not understand, however you would do well to consider it as you plan your next move.
If you have queries regarding any of my stated claims I have evidence enough to support them and would be happy to provide such. Enjoy your weekend Mr Hunt."
Published with kind permission, originally produced for Facebook