Critical by Dr Julia Patterson: ongoing battle to save the NHS

Critical by Dr Julia Patterson: ongoing battle to save the NHS

by Suswati Basu
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Dr Julia Patterson on her new book Critical

In an event held at The Trouble Club in London, Dr. Julia Grace Patterson, founder of EveryDoctor and a staunch advocate for the National Health Service (NHS), delivered a powerful message about the precarious state of the NHS and the urgent need for collective action to preserve it. Dr. Patterson, also the author of the book “Critical: Why the NHS is Being Betrayed and How We Can Fight for It,” passionately conveyed her concerns about the NHS’s future and the destructive forces currently at play.

Who is Critical author Dr Julia Patterson?

Dr. Julia Patterson is a dedicated medical professional and a staunch advocate for the National Health Service (NHS). She currently serves as the Chief Executive of EveryDoctor, a nonprofit organisation committed to championing the rights of doctors and the integrity of the NHS. Additionally, Dr. Patterson co-founded the Junior Doctors Alliance and played a pivotal role in establishing The Political Mess, an online platform dedicated to political discussions among UK doctors.

Dr. Patterson has emerged as a prominent critic of the government's approach to managing the NHS, emphasising the adverse consequences of budget cuts and inadequate funding on patient care. Her unwavering commitment extends to safeguarding the rights and improving the working conditions of medical practitioners.

In recognition of her outstanding advocacy for the NHS, Dr. Patterson was honoured with the Young Doctor of the Year Award by the British Medical Association in 2020. Furthermore, her contributions to healthcare advocacy earned her a well-deserved spot among the BBC's 100 Women of 2020.

What is the book ‘Critical’ about?

In her book, “Critical,” Dr. Julia Patterson offers a heartfelt exploration of the NHS’s challenges and presents transformative ideas for its survival. She emphasised that her motivation for writing the book stemmed from the urgent need to address the ongoing crisis within the healthcare system, particularly highlighted during the harsh winter months when the NHS struggled to meet the demands.

Readers are presented with a comprehensive exploration of the current state of the NHS and the persistent failures it has endured under successive governmental administrations. Dr. Patterson contends that the NHS is teetering on the brink, its fundamental principles eroded and disregarded by politicians over time.

The book delves into a multitude of critical subjects, encompassing the historical evolution of the NHS, its financial challenges, the strains on its workforce, and its overall performance. Dr. Patterson also dissects the ramifications of privatisation and the government’s implementation of market-driven reforms within the healthcare system.

Government management of the NHS comparable to a car crash

“Critical” by Dr. Julia Patterson is an indispensable read for individuals deeply concerned about the fate of the NHS and those seeking insights into the forces at play. It also equips those eager to participate in the ongoing battle to preserve this vital institution with valuable knowledge and perspectives.

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Dr. Patterson began by highlighting the complex and multifaceted nature of the NHS, describing it as both an institution and a political pawn. Over the past 75 years, the NHS has been tossed back and forth like a political football, with different parties using it for their own purposes. It has evolved into a symbol of our society, a workplace for many, and the place where most of us were born. Despite its cherished status, Dr. Patterson warned that the NHS is under severe threat and is slowly disintegrating.

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The medical professional painted a grim picture of the current state of healthcare in the UK. Urgent and emergency care services are overwhelmed, with patients in dire need often receiving no care at all. General practitioners (GPs) find themselves swamped with patients who are deteriorating while awaiting specialist input, leaving little time for routine appointments. Ambulance wait times have reached alarming levels, with patients in life-threatening situations enduring excruciating delays. Hospital facilities are stretched to the limit, with elderly patients sometimes waiting for days in emergency rooms and inadequate spaces for treatment.

“The staff are just driving a rickety old car and they’re trying their best to keep the patient safe and keep it going along the road and not have a crash. But it’s the politicians who are the ones who really have the power to modernise that car, to make sure that it gets to its destination safely.”

Dr Julia Patterson, ‘Critical’ Author

She also expressed concern about the impact on marginalised communities, particularly individuals with severe mental health issues or those living on the fringes of society. These vulnerable groups face significant barriers to accessing the care and support they desperately need.

‘Fragmentation of a system’

One of the key issues Dr. Patterson highlighted was the creeping or even current privatisation of the NHS. While privatisation may not always involve outright ownership, it encompasses the outsourcing of NHS services to external providers, including private companies. This trend has resulted in the fragmentation and destabilisation of a once-unified healthcare system. Private finance initiatives and increasing public debt to private companies have further complicated the situation, diverting resources away from patient care.

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Dr Patterson added that the denationalisation of the NHS has been “very cleverly misrepresented,” as it is “not being spoken about as a danger right now.” She believes that the encroachment has long been in place.

“All of that represents privatisation because it’s the systemic disruption and, fragmentation of a system which once was whole and once was run entirely by the public sector.”

Dr Julia Patterson, ‘Critical’ Author

Moreover, Dr. Patterson shed light on the government’s questionable response to the NHS crisis. Rather than investing in the public system, the government has sought costly partnerships with private healthcare companies, exacerbating the problem and treating the NHS as a “cash cow.”

Politics influenced by private interests

During the event, Dr. Patterson also discussed the 2019 Conservative Party manifesto pledges related to the NHS, highlighting their failure to deliver on promises of building new hospitals and recruiting additional nurses. She stressed the importance of holding politicians accountable and reminded the audience that the NHS belongs to the people who have paid for it through their taxes.

“Essentially, some of the Conservative donors who quite supportive of the Tory government, are hopping over to Labour now, and we’re seeing private healthcare people with private healthcare interests donating to both Keir Starmer and Wes Streeting and a number of other Labour MPs.”

Dr Julia Patterson, ‘Critical’ Author

The conversation delved into the political landscape and the alleged disappointing shift in Labour Party policies towards privatisation, as reported by various media outlets. Dr. Patterson expressed her concerns about politicians from both major parties being influenced by private healthcare interests and called for a renewed commitment to a publicly funded and publicly provided NHS.

In conclusion, Dr. Patterson’s message was a rallying cry to save the NHS from further erosion and privatisation. She urged the audience to become advocates for a healthcare system that truly serves the people and to hold politicians accountable for their actions. The future of the NHS depends on collective action and a commitment to its core principles: universal access, free at the point of care, and publicly funded.

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