This is the final post in a three part series.
Previously, student commissioner Temitope laid out two devotions that focused on improving patient care and resolving expected staffing complications. In this final post he makes an argument for the NHS to have more autonomy in it’s decision making.
But we have a Hercules against these giants… that is, the physician” John Donne – Meditation IV
Health and healthcare have always been, and always will be, political. It is a political choice to provide care free at the point of use, according to clinical need and not ability to pay. It is a choice that generation after generation of British people has continued to make. And we celebrate it too – most famously in the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony. Recently however, health as a site of political struggle has become contentious.
On the 23rd of October 2017, hospitals were formally obliged to ensure that all those who received free care were entitled to it, by carrying out passport checks, or other checks on the residency status of patients. Prior to this, a Memorandum of Understanding between the NHS and the Home Office meant that patient data could be scrutinised, not by healthcare professionals, nor for any clinical purpose, but with a view to detect any undocumented migrants using the NHS and to subsequently deport them from the UK. Dissuading people from seeking healthcare will always have negative consequences to the health of the population at large. Moreover, it is unclear exactly upon whom this obligation falls: doctors aren’t trained to take payments from patients, and doing so takes time away from performing clinical duties.
The British Medical Association, the union for doctors in the UK, has expressed concerns at the introduction of these regulations. The BMA has also called for the end of indefinite immigration detention in the UK, citing the well-documented mental health implications this practice has. The workers of the NHS have repeatedly used their voice, be it via the BMA or the Royal Colleges, to lobby the Government for better conditions for the health system and for society at large.
This is a task for all of us. It’s time to bring the NHS back into our hands, working to our agenda, for our future. Over the course of the last election, Yougov found that 84% of people support the nationalisation of the NHS.Demos, a cross-party think-tank, found that the NHS is one of the top concerns for young people today. The JR4NHS campaign recently won concessions that Accountable Care Organisations, which represent a radical restructuring of the NHS, cannot legally be implemented without national public consultation. It’s up to us to take every route possible, from expressions at elections – both local and general – to other means, to show the Government what we believe in, to develop a culture where it’s unthinkable for politicians to defy or subvert our wishes for our most treasured institution.
After ‘Devotions upon Emergent Occasions’, Donne made a full recovery from his disease. The NHS should have every opportunity to repeat his success.
Temitope Fisayo is a medical student at King’s College London and a writer. He is a member of Students for Global Health (formerly Medsin).