A nursing student’s reflection on a march

J20

United with 250,000 strangers, brought together by a gripping realisation and disgust at the bleak future of employment, public services, health care and everything else that exists to protect and further human life and society in the UK, I found myself heading from The Bank of England, through the famous streets of our capital towards what has long been held up as a fine symbol of democracy throughout the world, the houses of parliament. As a citizen of the United Kingdom I was incredibly proud to be contributing to a voice which is not fairly represented in those iconic corridors of power. However, as a student of nursing I felt despair.

 

Until recently, these public institutions that came to be purely for the protection and prosperity of society have remained out of the reaches of corporate greed. I travelled to London on the 20th June as I have done many times before when attending marches such as this by myself in the hope of finding a likeminded movement. A movement representing working people and the communities they serve. I mention that I made this trip alone to highlight the fact that this movement is a long way from reaching its tipping point. None of my nursing course mates were in attendance and none of the fantastic people that have been teaching and mentoring me during my time on my nursing placements. I fear I am part of a generation who have been taught to adapt to the realities of austerity rather than to challenge these policies objectively recognising them as purely political decisions that are been executed on our behalf.

 

People have lives. They have children and families. People just don’t have time. Rather than making time they have learned that life is simply a twisted Darwinian 1984esk game of survival. We have been taught overtime through the unquestioning absorption of mainstream media that we are on our own and if you want to survive you must work every hour of every day to do so. We have been taught to accept that the society we must survive in, a society that values wealth over empathy and power over community can’t be changed. Government relies on people being too physically and mentally exhausted to argue. They rely on people having too much to deal with in their lives to further muster the energy to object and demonstrate and exercise their democratic rights. Adapting to increasingly enslaving working conditions, regardless of whether it is morally appropriate to do so has been accepted over rebellion simply because people need jobs. The balance of power is well and truly in the hands of the bourgeois. Even students, the demographic who have traditionally been the ideal catalyst for change as we have seen in other countries in recent years are now laden by debt before they even start University and many have to find multiple zero hours jobs just to make ends meet.

 

“So what! It’s the same for everyone” cries the right. “People working in the private sector have had their salaries and bonuses cut too!” Ah yes! The classic race to the bottom argument. “Why should the NHS be protected from cuts?”. My answer to this question is simple. We’re talking about caring for human life. That is the simple difference. You may argue that managers are not good enough in the NHS. In that case take it up with the managers of the NHS. Or perhaps the bureaucracy and red tape in the NHS is enough to grind down the most forward thinking and innovative young minds the UK has to offer. In that case common sense would suggest this issue should be addressed as a matter of urgency. But suggesting the whole thing should be sold to a rich individual whose only goal is to make money from people’s ill health is morally unforgivable. You may say get rid of expensive qualified nurses and replace them with less skilled cheaper workers. But do so at your peril. The number of complaints, conduct enquiries and legal action against hospitals will increase exponentially in line with the deskilling of health staff and absence of professionally scrutinised standards that skilled health professional are bound by.

 

In the end it is not a question of public verses private it is a question of deciding as a society our minimum moral and ethical standards. It is not a question of: “well I’ve had a pay cut so now you have a pay cut”. It is a question of protecting human dignity and social justice. It is a case of saying “get your hands off our health system, don’t you dare touch our legal aid!”. As a student armed with the privilege of education regardless of your position in your organisation you will inevitably represent those who do not have a voice in society. It comes with a great weight of responsibility which to simply ignore will surely be felt by the most vulnerable in our communities.

Tom Mason

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