Opinion

Student voice: am I about to start work on a sinking ship?

As the government continues to deny the crisis in the NHS, it is becoming easier to believe in sabotage.
Sinking ship

As the government continues to deny the crisis in the NHS, it is becoming easier to believe in sabotage.

It is impossible to avoid all the negative headlines about healthcare and, as someone who is about to embark on a career in the NHS, they make my heart sink.

I find the discrepancy between the headlines and government statements disheartening and insulting.

The news tells us that the situation is so dire that the British Red Cross has been stepping in to help NHS staff cope with demand. But prime minister Theresa May and health secretary Jeremy Hunt seem to deny any such crisis.

Instead, they shift the blame onto the normal pressures of an ageing population, while skilfully avoiding acknowledging the social care crisis has been exacerbated by government cuts.

...

As the government continues to deny the crisis in the NHS, it is becoming easier to believe in sabotage.


Is there someone overseeing the sinking of the NHS? Picture: iStock

It is impossible to avoid all the negative headlines about healthcare and, as someone who is about to embark on a career in the NHS, they make my heart sink.

I find the discrepancy between the headlines and government statements disheartening and insulting.

The news tells us that the situation is so dire that the British Red Cross has been stepping in to help NHS staff cope with demand. But prime minister Theresa May and health secretary Jeremy Hunt seem to deny any such crisis.

Instead, they shift the blame onto the normal pressures of an ageing population, while skilfully avoiding acknowledging the social care crisis has been exacerbated by government cuts.

If this discord unnerves and confuses me, I can only imagine how the public must feel.

Working in the NHS means I see the effect these headlines have. People come into hospital wary and mistrustful, prepared for poor care; they are often angry or demoralised before even setting foot on a ward.

People don’t know what to believe. Will they be at higher risk of dying if they are admitted on a Friday evening? Will their child have poor care and worse outcomes if they need emergency surgery in the middle of the night?

Pushed to the edge

I believe that the NHS is in crisis and the status quo cannot continue. Nurses are being put into compromising positions regularly. For example, I worked a shift where there were 13 high acuity surgical patients with two nurses on duty, despite RCN recommendations that there should be four on duty in general children’s wards.

Yet in the middle of all this I have seen outstanding patient care from overstretched nurses and doctors who still take the time to reassure their anxious patients and their families.

It feels like the NHS is running on the goodwill and determination of its staff – and not much else.

The suggestion that the government is pushing the NHS to breaking point to make privatisation more palatable, is feeling less like a conspiracy theory and more like a reasonable assumption. 


About the author

Emma Cowen is a children’s nursing student at the University of Brighton

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