The musings of a final year medical student

Monday, 23 March 2015

Which political party really cares about the NHS?

So, the 2015 UK General Election is looming. As someone who is interested, I am both passionate and confused as to what different parties hope to provide for us. Politics is something I do try to keep up with, but to be quite honest the more I learn the more it perplexes me. 

One of my greatest concerns is the NHS. I don't want more cuts and I don't want a private healthcare system. Opinions are very much divided on the efficacy of our free healthcare system, but all the same I am a supporter of it. As a medical student, I feel very strongly that when I qualify I want to give care to people without handing over a huge invoice. Healthcare should be a right, not a privilege. More and more there is speculation as to how long the NHS will last. I shared a Channel 4 documentary on my Facebook account that explored some of the funding issues. The documentary claims that 2 billion pounds is spent per week on the NHS. I would highly recommend this documentary. Patients that await costly treatments such as IVF and gastric bands are interviewed and the outcome of their request is recorded. It is heartbreaking to see when treatments cannot be offered because of cost. However, without the NHS more and more of these pricey treatments will be unavailable to those who need it.

I have tried to make this post as unbiased to any particular party and rely purely on party websites and media coverage. Please let me know if I've got my facts wrong!

Okay, let's start off with the Tories. A Facebook petition popped up today on my homepage claiming that David Cameron has handed over £780 million to private healthcare firms.  The link tells us that some of these companies, which will carry out important procedures such as heart operations, have track records of poor healthcare. This data has been found by NHS regulatory analysts. Allegations are spread that these private companies are linked to the Tory party, too. Labour's shadow health secretary Andy Burnham says "It is outrageous that large chunks of the NHS are being parcelled up and sold off without the permission of a single person in this country." The article highlights one private firm, called Vanguard, who is set to carry out heart operations but is simultaneously being investigated for botched eye operations under another NHS contract. The article also gives a link to The Guardian's coverage of this news story. Three of the eleven firms that are to be implemented have been complained about. The link to The Guardian's article is here. What isn't clear is why David Cameron did this; what benefits can we yield from this transaction? You can sign the petition against this here, if you want to. 

According to their website, they've done a cracking job of reducing the deficit by half. That's great. They then go on to slag off Labour and mention that "Labour  racked up the biggest budget deficit in our peacetime history." Their claim is "That's why we're taking difficult decisions now - because the alternative is to burden our children with more debt and put the recovery at risk." 

The reason why they should be assessed with caution is because of all the NHS cuts we have witnessed since they were put into power and the ambiguous claims (see above paragraph) that they're basically prepared to do whatever it takes to get the deficit reduced. However, they believe that by strengthening the economy this will allow the NHS to thrive.  I struggle to understand why a limitation of NHS services yields better patient care? In addition, I don't feel too comfortable with their attitudes to benefits: "By capping benefits, we’re rewarding work and helping thousands of people get off welfare and look forward to a brighter future." Quite a strong assumption there that people on benefits don't deserve them, so they're not going to get them. Do the unemployed people not get a brighter future, too? 
To their credit  they have made some commendable improvements to the NHS:
"Reducing bureaucracy to pay for more than 8,000 more doctors and 6,000 more nurses on wards – so frontline services deliver for you and your family
Making services more efficient for patients – the number of people waiting more than a year for treatment is down by 98 per cent
Launching a new Cancer Drugs Fund, which has already helped more than 60,000 people"

The Conservatives then go on to say that they will ensure GP access 7 days a week by 2020. Think what you want about that possibility, and how that could affect not only a patient's lifestyle but also the doctor's. Given that there is already a demand for more GPs, they would have to spread even more thinly on the ground.
To summarise, The Conservatives have no concrete statements on their website agreeing to prolong the National Health Service. They are making changes which they are convinced (or at least are trying to convince us) will improve NHS care. The life expectancy of the NHS is unknown.

Then, in contrast, Labour. We all know Labour are pro-NHS, but what does Labour intend on doing to ensure our NHS can survive? Their website claims that thanks to the Tories we have our ridiculous A&E waiting times. Maybe those cuts didn't work out that well. But Labour, please tell us how you're going to fix this problem, rather than reminding us that we shouldn't trust the Conservatives. They also guarantee you can get a GP appointment within 48 hours if you elect them into government. Sounds like great stuff, but where's the strategy? How is this actually going to work? How much will it cost, and where's the money going to come from? Furthermore, they want to prioritise mental health more. It's great to see that a political party is addressing this overlooked topic. They want to implement better training to NHS staff in order to aid diagnosis and treatment for these individuals. They also say "We will change the NHS Constitution to give people the right to psychological therapies for mental health problems like anxiety and depression – helping to give mental health the same priority as physical health."
In addition, they want the NHS treatment to be an all-encompassing lifestyle assessment; this means taking into account physical health, mental health and social issues. They argue that at present "The current health and care system is still based on three fragmented services: physical health in the mainstream NHS, mental health on the fringes of the NHS, and social care in council run services. Increasingly, however, people’s needs are a complex mix of the physical, mental and social. For all its strengths, the NHS was not designed to fully recognise this." 
A contradiction to the Conservative government's aims is highlighted: "They (the Conservatives) made it harder to see your GP, by scrapping Labour’s guarantee of a GP appointment in 48 hours, saying that this was “no longer a priority”. They cut funding for Labour’s GP extended opening hours scheme, and as a result fewer practices are open at evening and weekends." How does this complement the Tories's aspirations for 7-day GP practices???

What becomes clear is how the constant digs that each party dishes out about their opponents overshadow the true content of each party's manifestos. I'm more interested in hearing pragmatic approaches to solving our problems than seeing each politician pointing their finger at their enemy. Labour continue to shame David Cameron: "David Cameron promised that under him there would be no top-down NHS reorganisations. He broke his promise. It just goes to show: you can’t trust the Tories with the NHS. In fact, the Tories have wasted £3 billion on a top-down reorganisation which puts competition and profits before co-operation and patient care, and ties hospitals up in competition law.
Scandalously, as part of David Cameron’s reorganisation, over 4,000 NHS staff have been laid off and then rehired, many of them on six-figure salaries.....It always falls to Labour to save the NHS from the Tories. We will do it again." 
In terms of action, they intend on ensuring a free health service at point of use, remove enforced competition and ensure private patients are not prioritised over others. Overall, we know Labour wants the NHS to live. It wants to tackle key issues and has listened to the demands of the general public. However, the exact methods of problem solving are yet to be uncovered. At the same time, should we be worried about Labour's infamous budget-breaking track record? Will flooding investment into the NHS worsen or improve our overall economy? It seems Labour has great ideas to improve quality of NHS care, but what are the changes going to be that allow the NHS to keep going, rather than bringing the deficit right back down to where it was when they were last in power? What are we going to have to give up to allow these changes?

Moving onto the LibDems. Even though we lost faith in them when the tuition fees went up, it's worth browsing over what they've got to say about the NHS. Once again, the first thing I notice is naming and shaming. "The Tories and Labour have put the NHS at risk. It was Liberal Democrats who stopped Conservative privatisation plans and reverse some of Labour's policies which meant private health companies got special favours. In fact, Labour paid private companies £250 million for operations they didn't even perform. Liberal Democrats have made sure that can never happen again." 
Like Labour, the LibDems want to give more focus to mental health: "We are using £400 million to help people with mental health problems get the right support early on, such as talking or psychological therapies. We are also introducing waiting limits, so people will know for the first time how long they have to wait for mental health treatment." Unfortunately that's all I could find on their website! I scoured their pages, but there seems to be mostly emphasis on their alternative economic strategy and pensions.

Finally, the Green party. According to their website: "We don’t believe that the public’s health should ever be up for auction. That’s why we are completely opposed to the Conservatives’, Labour’s, and Liberal Democrats’ policies of introducing market forces and competition into the NHS – a process which is placing the interests of corporate profits ahead of the nation’s wellbeing.
We will:
Fight for a publicly funded, publicly provided health service free at the point of use.
End the creeping privatisation of the NHS and repeal the Health and Social Care Act 2012.
Make mental health a much higher priority with resources to match this status."
So good, pro-NHS and also wanting to tackle mental health. But how else is the NHS going to be sustained? 

Other minority groups haven't been covered in this post. 

I think what we can take from this is that all of them are a bit rubbish at showing us hard evidence as to how we can sustain our NHS. Parties clearly love to contradict and downplay each other as a petty way of getting more votes. I can see why they do it, but it does get to the point where it's just plain boring. I wonder whether further NHS reformations will be worth it if potential over-spending could worsen our economy. PLEASE give me more stats and links if you have any regarding this matter. Tell me what you think.


Sunday, 22 March 2015


Here is a comprehensive guide as to what to do if you or a friend has been spiked.
Most of the info here is taken from the NHS website and I highly recommend it for further information here.

I'd heard a lot about people being spiked at clubs and bars, but never thought much of it. I'd seen people reacting badly to spiking when I've been out, but this weekend was the first time I witnessed a friend go through it. It's so important that people learn what to do if this happens as the consequences are very unpredictable. Drugs used to spike drinks can even induce a coma or death.

It can sometimes be hard to tell if someone has been spiked because the symptoms are similar to being too drunk. However, if you know the person well and what they're like on a night out and what their alcohol tolerance is, any behaviour that is more severe or different could indicate that they've been spiked. The drugs used take roughly 15-30 minutes to kick in, so this can be used to gage which venue you were at when someone was spiked. Symptoms include:
-Lowered inhibitions
-Difficulty concentrating or speaking
-Loss of balance and finding it hard to move
-Visual problems, particularly blurred vision
-Memory loss or blackouts
-Feeling confused or disorientated, particularly after waking up
-Vomiting and nausea

If you or someone around you has been spiked, alert the group you're with of what's going on. It's important to leave the venue you're at and either go home or to A&E depending on the severity of the symptoms. If the spiked person collapses or starts vomiting at the club/bar, alert a member of staff. If you can't trust anyone, call someone who can help you out and/or provide transport. Don't accept help from strangers if they try to take you home. Really, the best thing to do is to go to A&E. Most helpful friends may be drunk, too, and could miss vital signs that a person's health is deteriorating. If you haven't gone to A&E and the symptoms begin to exacerbate, go there now. If you haven't gone to A&E it is really important that the person who is spiked has constant attention, help and monitoring. They may need someone to help them walk, go to the toilet, to be sick without getting it down themselves, and to get back home and into bed. They also need to be monitored when sleeping. It sounds grim but 16-25 year olds are at the highest risk of drowning in their own sick. The person who has been spiked needs monitoring until the drugs have left their system, roughly 72 hours later.

The NHS strongly advises calling the police ASAP. Blood and urine samples will be taken and need to be done before exceeding 72 hours after the incident. 

Unfortunately, spiking makes people at risk of sexual and physical assault. If you think you or the person who has been spiked has then been raped or assaulted, contact the police ASAP. Medical attention should be sought for emergency contraception for women, and to test for STIs. Sexual abuse can be mentally scarring, and there is a lot of support for this as well:
Rape Crisis national free phone help line 0808 802 9999 (12-2.30pm and 7-9.30pm every day of the year). N.B the NHS website has mixed up the details of these sites so I have amended them here on the blogpost
Sexual health clinics in your area
NHS 1111

Furthermore, how can we avoid getting spiked? 
-Never leave a drink unattended and keep an eye on other friends' drinks
-Don't accept a drink from someone you don't know
-Do not share personal details like your address
-Buy bottled drinks rather than drinks that bartenders have to prepare
-If you think your drink has been spiked but aren't sure, don't drink it
-Before you go out, tell someone where you're going and when you should be back
-Avoiding taking expensive equipment as this can make you a target to thieves who may spike you
-Assess where nearby A&E and medical help is, particularly if you're abroad

Going out clubbing is so much fun and for many students it is an integral part of their social lives. Personally I don't often buy drinks at clubs anyway because they are expensive and always watered down. Now I feel even more inclined not to buy them after seeing what the consequences can be. 

Apart from that it was a fantastic weekend and my friend is doing just fine. One week till Easter, hooray!!!

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Stratford Upon Avon

Had a fantastic time with my family this past weekend.

The weekend felt extra relaxing because I submitted by research paper for grading. I'm so glad it's out the way now. Hopefully I will pass and so from now on all I need to focus on is passing the Summer exams! The urogenital block starts next week and then we have 3 weeks off for Easter.

I got a train from Liverpool to Stratford Upon Avon on Saturday morning and met up with my family to celebrate my sister's 18th birthday and of course, Mother's Day, on 15th March.

We chilled out at the hotel, which gave complementary cakes for Lucy, and then went to an early dinner at Loxley's Restaurant and Wine Bar. It was a gorgeous meal, accompanied with French martinis: 2 shots of vodka, raspberry liqueur and pineapple. 

We then went to the 7.15pm performance of Much Ado About Nothing, a comedic Shakespearian play at the RSC. It was their final performance and it did not disappoint! The actors were fantastic and the director chose to set the scene in 20s England rather than the traditional Italian/Spanish setting. Much Ado About Nothing is possibly my favourite Shakespeare play.

On Sunday, I made the most of the roll-top bath in our hotel room, gave mum and Lucy their presents and then had a lovely breakfast. I had pastries and eggs royal (poached eggs. english muffin, béarnaise sauce, salmon). I then headed to the station to get back to uni. It was a blissful, if not fleeting weekend with my wonderful family. Feeling very spoilt.

However, there could not be more contrast between this weekend and my last two days! I went on a compulsory army leadership exercise in Altcar which the medical school sent us on. It was tough to say the least! Particularly if you're like me and you have neither upper body strength nor balance! It also didn't help that I am absolutely terrified of heights; jumping 10ft onto a crash mat in the soggy English weather was not pleasant. The army staff were very keen to make us want to join, but I hate to say it, this experience has made me want to do the exact opposite. 

Now back to normality, I've got a day off tomorrow. Got lots of jobs to get done before Lucy comes up to Liverpool on Friday where she's going to get a proper taste of a Liverpool night out! As well as making the most out of the fantastic shopping.

Outside the RSC

French martini

Brilliant piece in the loos at Loxley's Restaurant and Wine Bar

That bath.... heaven.

In contrast with out 28 bed bunkhouse in Altcar....


Thursday, 12 March 2015

Why do we compare ourselves?

This weekend I'm going to see a Shakespeare play with my family in Straford-Upon-Avon. Given that I haven't seen my family in a while and the fact I am obsessed with theatre, you'd think I would be ecstatic about going. Sadly, it hasn't been quite like that.

We all have insecurities. Whether it's a wonky nose, a lack of self-belief, or for most people, our bodies. I've never had a good body image and it's something that waxes and wanes in terms of how badly it affects me. 

Most families all have similar body shapes, right? That isn't the case for my family. My mum and sister are short and exceedingly thin. I, on the other hand, am 5ft8 and a size twelve. For some silly reason I will never understand, I have always been fixated on trying to look more like them. Every time we have a group photo taken, I scrutinise it and wince at the difference in body widths. Genetically we're all very similar, so why don't I look like them? I was a chubby child and then through my adolescence became thin when I got my growth spurt. I was shapeless and naturally skinny, but even then I felt big and was convinced my stomach was bulging. 

Before I came to uni I was a size ten, but due to being inactive and eating so much unhealthy food, I'm now 5 kilos heavier than I was. Since getting here, I've become simultaneously more and less body confident. I am comfortable around my boyfriend and all my uni friends. I don't feel like I stick out as the chubby one in the group or the 'fat friend'. But each time I visit my family, it gets harder and harder to feel body confident. I feel powerless and frustrated. If I am a smart woman, why can't I just lose weight and look like the rest of the family? Really, the question I should be asking is "Why do I feel the need to 'fit in'"? 

It's a constant dilemma in my head between what I know is right and fair, in contrast to how I feel emotionally about myself. The most important thing in the world is your own health. Eat well and exercise regularly and the benefits are ten fold, I know this to be true. So why is there a compulsion, an obsession to be accepted; to conform to the current body hype that is spread in the media. Why is thin better? As Kate Moss said: "Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels". What a morbid quote.

I can understand that many people who read this will think "What is she complaining about? A size 12 isn't fat and she should stop complaining about her perfect life". This is what I keep telling myself. It feels so selfish to complain about wobbly thighs when I should be bloody grateful just to have legs that let me run and dance and skip. But at the same time, I feel too scared to write on this blog about the parts of my body I do like, because I don't want to seem vain. Isn't that sad? Why should we chastise people that like themselves? This is not a thing that should be scoffed at and looked down upon. 

Additionally, it's so peculiar how we are so loving and accepting of our friends' bodies, and love them dearly just as they are, but when it comes to our own we despise every minute 'flaw'? When you get to know a friend or a partner, it's those flaws that make them even more attractive and adorable.

Why do you think we compare ourselves? Is it primeval, a societal indoctrination, or both?

One day I hope I can look at my body and love every part of it. Moreover, I wish that everyone in the world could do that, too. Because at the end of the day, who gives a fuck about what you look like if you've got something interesting to say.
Happy and confident with my medic friends at Ladies Dinner (me on far right)

Even happy photos of me and my sister on my 18th birthday are plagued with irrational scrutiny


Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Spring // Printemps

Some photos taken of my hall's greenery, hope it was sunny near you!

Quelques photos qui ont été pris à Liverpool

Camera: Canon EOS100D
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