This week has been a busy one. Staff sickness has meant that some of us have worked longer than we are scheduled to, meaning we have covered shifts we don’t usually cover. At risk of repeating myself, I have been tired and not very energised. I haven’t however been grumpy – my patients absolutely make my job worthwhile: the majority of them are consistently grateful, always vulnerable, and relatively understanding of waits for my time.
Today I had to explain the state of the NHS to a patient because she asked me for my views. She specifically asked about the current junior doctor “issue” and how the NHS was doing generally. I had to respond honestly. For those who don’t know it, my daughter is a junior doctor; I did not, nor would ever, choose this career for her. Why not? Because I am fully aware of the crippling hours and the constant demands that would be placed on her. Consequently, I tried my best to explain to the patient my understanding of the junior doctor “issue”, pointing out the constraints the new contract would place on junior doctors, whilst stressing this was my view and trying hard not to scare my patient.
My patient listened attentively: she made good eye contact, I received frequent nods throughout, and my views were sympathetically received. She was wholly sympathetic and explained she had been following the debate around the issue for some time, and with some interest. I was thoroughly relieved – I was not attacked not was I ridiculed, my patient valued the care she received and respected me as a practitioner and as someone who understands my workplace.
This made me wonder how many of the public think this way? How many have followed the arguments, the strikes, the discussions about the future of the NHS? If the public have followed the current discussions around NHS provision and problems, why haven’t more got involved by attending marches, by writing to MPs, by taking part in social media?
Despite my suspicions that the public are ‘sleep-walking’ into our current NHS crisis, I now believe there is a definite mood of discontent out there. This is evidenced by the fact that my patient asked me about the “junior doctor” issue, and asked me for my views on my workplace. I realise these are currently being debated throughout the various media outlets but I have never been asked this before; my patient genuinely wanted to know what some of the issues were, how long they had been going on for, and how they could be solved. I ultimately batted the ball back into her court – the public, after all I believe, have to take ownership of the NHS and decide to be its saviour.
My overwhelming wish is that the public, you, will fight for the NHS. It cannot survive without you. As professional practitioners we can fight, we can aim to deliver the best service we can (and we do, daily), we can advocate for our patients and genuinely care about their recovery, but ultimately, we cannot save our NHS without public support. The marches, the petitions, the social media outcries, will ultimately only matter if there is an overwhelming will to save our NHS from further privatisation.
Will you save it?
Will you fight for it?
I will. I can’t do it without you.