In the lead up to the unconference, I was filled with a sense of excitement about finally reaching the culmination of months of hard work. Now that it has come and gone, I will deeply miss the diverse group of high-level thinkers whom I formed bonds with during countless meetings that were filled with lots of laughter and even more debate.
The prospect of the Student-led Health Commission immediately peaked my intrigue. I have been interested in healthcare since I was a child and regularly visited the hospital to manage my asthma. My curiosity was sparked from reading the books and posters that surrounded the many doctors’ offices.
Image from HSJ, Debunked: Myths about NHS Managers
That curiosity led me to volunteer with St John Ambulance for 6 years and to begin to further research into health services. I vividly remember reading Dr Bach’s article in Times Magazine, “The Day I Started Lying to My Wife”, and it really stuck with me. It was an emotional story journaling an oncologist’s suffering as his wife battled through breast cancer. Through his series of blog posts during his wife’s treatment, I gleaned a deeper insight into the difficulties he faced, both as a husband losing the love of his life and as an expert in the field of her disease. His article sparked a particular interest in cancer but also to better understand the type of experiences faced by healthcare workers.
Image from The Kings Fund, Priorities for the NHS and social care in 2017
I took on the role of sub team manager for the NHS workforce group because I am passionate about an NHS workforce’s that is effective when their emotional welfare and quality of life is considered. Our team analysed the precarious balance between workforce well being and patient care to develop recommendations that ensure the sustainability of healthcare services. Our primary idea was to improve flexibility in terms of re-specialisation and career transition in the NHS, as well as a new approach to recruitment which replaces the existing rigid tick-box culture. Our team was surprised by the extent to which the experts at our policy lab agreed with our initial radical recommendations, such as medical apprenticeships in the future, and gradually we fine tuned our recommendations from visions into implementable ideas.
We believe a functioning NHS relies on a happier workforce who are encouraged to provide the best possible treatment because they feel appreciated, and have a healthy work-life balance. I sincerely hope all the recommendations we envision will become a reality over the next 15 years’ time, but it will only be possible with continual public awareness and, perhaps most important, a political will to change the health and social care system.
Nathiyaa Thevananth is a 2nd year Chemistry undergraduate with a passion ranging from baking to chess. She hopes to one day volunteer in a Buddhist monastery in Nepal. Edited by the social media team.