As the post-election dust settles and the nation divides itself between people getting excited about abolishing the Human Rights Act (what have human rights ever done for us anyway?) and wasting time on the internet playing with the Slap Michael Gove app, it is time to reflect on some of the advantages a Conservative government will bring the NHS and dump some of the scaremongering myths that might begin to spread now people find themselves in a world where we are expected to take Boris Johnson seriously.
First, let’s rejoice in the new money. The Tories have promised another £8bn in spending. Along with £22bn efficiency savings - which isn’t scary at all - we are not only going to spend more but also save loads too. I make that an extra £30 billion. I’m pretty sure we are all going to get a new car. And a butler. Or thrice weekly foot rubs. Although it’s always possible Jeremy Hunt might decide to waste it on homeopathy. Or astrology. Or therapeutic mime. But let’s stay positive and think butler.
However, we may need even more money. Particularly if the efficiency savings involve selling operating theatres and hospital beds, and cutting back on light bulbs by not having any electricity. So we can look forward to some private/public enterprise initiatives to raise funds.
Uniform sponsorship is an exciting revenue stream opportunity. Fast food logos on the breast pocket can look smart and earn money. Larger adverts on the back of a nurses promoting car insurance offer the ever-engaged professional the opportunity to generate funds while walking away from the patient, and why nobody has yet included supermarket brand names on MRI scanners is bewildering.
Nursing is well versed in protocol development and skills assessment and nobody in their right mind can see any harm in using that mentality to promote a brand’s mid intervention.
“Nurse, I’m thirsty” could easily be greeted not so much with “I’ll get you some water” but rather, “you need a gallon of Irn Bru” - maybe followed with a little song about Irn Bru. It would probably work better if the nurse could then access someone who was selling Irn Bru. A wandering salesperson if you like, a bit like they used to have in the cinemas selling ice cream. Obviously the wandering salesperson would constitute an overhead, but what if we used young people who didn’t have jobs? We wouldn’t have to pay them much. Who knows, maybe we could persuade the NMC to get on board. After all, we’re going to have to privatise the NMC right?
As for some of the unfounded fears that sit at the root of neoliberal approaches to healthcare, we need to put to bed right from the start any ideas people have about selling their organs in exchange for food. We have already made it clear that there are not enough nurses and doctors, and given that our promise to provide 24/7 care for everyone would require us to train 88% of the population over 12 to be clinicians, we really are far too understaffed to be wasting time removing people’s kidneys willy-nilly. Unless they pay us, obviously.
The important thing is to see the coming years not as an assault on your hopes, your brilliance, your integrity or your values but rather as an opportunity to replenish the frankly outdated idea of helping people and re-launch the floundering NHS as a marketplace for innovators, a carnival for entrepreneurs. Don’t be afraid. It will all be alright…
Mark Radcliffe is senior lecturer and author of Stranger than Kindness. Follow him on twitter @markacradcliffe