Content editor, Joanna Lowy, comments on all things health-related, and gives you a sneaky peek into her news-based medical musings of the week. Sometimes controversial, other times humorous, always straight from the heart; here you get to know the girl behind the facts! Enjoy! Comments welcome and invited!
Not long ago I learned of a disturbing truth. Cambridge graduates, for a small fee, can automatically upgrade their BA, Hons. Degree to an MA. And being a graduate of both an extremely challenging and expensive Masters myself (what I would like to coin a real qualification), you can imagine my utter disdain towards what can only be described, in the simplest term possible, as extremely unfair.
You can imagine my interest, therefore, in news today that Cambridge students are receiving yet another honour (as if the mere label of being a Cambridge graduate wasn’t enough). For it has emerged that 15 lucky students have become the beneficiaries of a ?250 cash pay out.
On this occasion, however, I am not envious.
For you see, nothing in life comes for free (except for a Cambridge Masters, apparently). Because these ‘lucky’ students had to be injected with nightclub drug ketamine as part of a research project.
Apart from the obvious financial issue in these tough economical times (to the tune of ?3,750 precisely), one has to ask a) how the psychiatry department of this prestigious university could get away with doing this, and b) how such academically brilliant students could agree?
One of the following two answers may explain. Either this is a subtle ploy by the university to cut their number of students to keep costs down (unlikely, but worth a thought all the same), or it is painfully indicative of the current financial pressures which are facing students across the country. And as this story demonstrates, Cambridge students are not exempt.
“I needed the money at the time and I wouldn’t do it again”, admits one PhD student who was happy to put her health on the line for a bit of cash. And you can’t really get much higher than a Cambridge PhD student, so if she was brought out so easily, imagine what other students across the country would do.
150 miles across the country, however, a very different picture emerges. For during an enjoyable lunch date with a friend yesterday, who is currently in her final year as a medical student at Leeds University, she revealed that every student in the final two years of their medical degree are entitled to a free iphone, provided by the university (and the only medical experiments they’re expected to carry out, are on rats). And if that wasn’t enough, she told me that they make sure to have spares in case of any lost, stolen, or damaged phones. I wouldn’t even like to hazard a guess at how much this must set the university back, but as one of the largest medical schools in Europe, it simply boggles the mind.
For taking into account the huge controversies surrounding both the tuition fee inflation and the NHS cuts, something just doesn’t sit right with both case studies mentioned. Granted, the iphone is intended to help with advanced medical technologies, and is also, supposedly, a loan. However I can’t help but wonder how there is access to this absurd amount of money for what is, for all intents and purposes, a luxury, when daily cuts are being made to an already fragile healthcare and education system. We have already been made aware that NHS spending cuts is having a huge effect on the level of healthcare provided, and it would seem that once again, health is being compromised for money (or lack, whereof), both on an individual and collective basis. But this time, it’s not just happening in hospitals.
I was shocked to find out this week that potentially due to what has been described as “playground behaviour” between two NHS trusts, a woman has died.
55-year-old Jane Hopes, a senior NHS manager, lost her life to breast cancer, after being wrongly told that the lump in her breast was benign.
The inquest found that the mistakes made in this case, along with 25 others, comes down to a “strained relationship” between the North Bristol NHS Trust and University Hospitals Bristol Trust. However, although these particular cases range from 2000 to 2008, so can hardly be attributed to current problematic times, there is a real danger that “power struggles” and “playground behaviour” could become the norm within the NHS as cuts continue.
News this week has been rife with the struggles facing member of the NHS, with warnings that both doctors and nurses are in short supply. According to an article in the Telegraph 27,000 ‘front line’ posts have been earmarked to go across the NHS, and it seems that these cuts are already making a huge impact on the healthcare system. A survey found 40 per cent of nurses claim that care is compromised on a weekly basis, as a result of the eight to one ratio of patients to nurses, and with other reports that patients are being left in the hands of junior doctors because of inadequate consultant cover over the weekends, it’s no wonder that the NHS could reach “breaking point” (some may even go as far as to say that it already has).
The Royal College of Physician’s response is that hospitals should ensure consultants are available every single day of the week for at least 12 hours a day, which is not only an absolutely absurd suggestion, but would also probably result in even less doctors on call as either their own health deteriorates as a result, or they simply walk out. The added stress would also almost certainly increase the “power struggles” and “playground behaviour” among the remaining staff as their workload becomes simply unmanageable. Yet another survey this week has already found that more than 60% of nurses have seriously considered leaving their job in the last 12 months purely because of these issues.
Which brings me on to the point I’m trying to make; take away from the NHS as if for punishment, and they will regress to a childhood state as if they are merely playing doctors and nurses. Of course, I am not suggesting for an instant that these cuts are occurring because of something the NHS has done; as we know only too well, we are all innocent victims of an economy gone wrong. However, we must be able to distinguish between what is a possible cut, and what absolutely must not be touched under any circumstance. And the healthcare of this nation is one for the latter.
Take milk from a baby, and he will cry. Take staff from the NHS, and we all will.
“What do you mean you are NOT open?! There’s hardly an inch of snow outside, and my 6-year old daughter really must be able to practice her part in the school’s Christmas production.”
“A 13% increase in my fare? Are you having a laugh? That’s the last time I travel by train!”
“Shame on you for turning blue-education is a right, not a privilege!”
And so on and so forth. Is it me, or is the level of anger peppering the news this week unprecedented? It seems that everywhere you turn, someone, somewhere, is furious about something. And quite rightly so; from the country’s constant failure, year in year out, to deal with the frankly minimal amount of snow which falls, to the outrageous rise in tuition fees which sees students still marching in protest as passionately as they did a month ago, we have every reason to be annoyed.
Normally we’d be told that anger is bad for us, giving us high blood pressure, a heightened heart rate, and a migraine. But this is a common misconception, as it’s not so much the feelings which have a negative effect on our health, but how we deal with them.
“For every minute you are angry, you lose sixty seconds of happiness”, Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said, and this may be good and well, but it’s hardly something we can control, is it? And it’s beliefs like this that cause so many to repress their feelings of anger, and become so internally aggravated that they are constantly teetering on exploding like a ticking time bomb (which perhaps explains the almost legal British requirement to "Keep Calm and Carry On").
Fortunately, we are currently amidst National Anger Awareness week, which attempts to detonate our internal countdown by teaching us to both acknowledge and welcome our feelings of anger, and provide an appropriate outlet for them. But with both the news and tweets around this week (“Dear Anger Awareness Week organisers: why not help keep anger levels down by NOT SENDING ME SPAM EMAILS ABOUT ANGER AWARENESS WEEK”-Darren Turpin)-somehow I don’t think that’s a problem us British have.