Monday, January 11, 2016

RIP David Bowie

I was probably at Uni before I properly got into David Bowie.  I liked Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground more when I was at school and I was more into Iggy Pop.  I had heard most of the big hits on TV and the radio but in the '80s he was doing stuff with Queen and I really hated Queen.  I was missing the point.

I started to get things more when I picked up a tape of Ziggy Stardust.  It was more rocky and urgent. I found myself coming back to it again and again.  Over the past 20 years I've explored most, if not all, of his back catalogue.  I've never really got into Tin Machine.

His early stuff is really fucking good, as I'm sure you know.  Between 1967 and 1980 I don't think he put a foot wrong musically.  Maybe he could have taken a few less drugs and stuff like that but he made great music.  He pushed the boundaries of art and rock.

His output over the past few years has been great too.  Unexpected single 'where are we now?' and the LCD Soundsystem remix of 'love is lost' were very strong.  The song 'i'm afraid of Americans' that came out in 1997 featured Trent Reznor on the v1 version and is better than many Nine Inch Nails tracks.

David Bowie left us hidden gems.  I hope to discover more of them over the next few years and I hope you guys do too.


Friday, January 08, 2016

Is medicine in the UK fucked?

Why would a smart school kid want to be a doctor?

I didn't work hard at school.  I wasn't interested.  I was more interested in music and comic books and having fun.  Eventually I grew up, decided I wanted to do something worthwhile for society and my community and decided I wanted to be a doctor.  I wanted to help people.  So, at the age of 23, more than 15 years ago, I went to medical school.

Unfortunately I never had rich parents.  Both my parents had jobs.  Jobs working for the state where they worked hard but they were never paid very much.  Now I probably earn more than my parents did when their salaries were combined.  However at medical school I had no money.  My parents didn't have much spare to give me although they gave me what they could.  I got bank loans, overdrafts, hardship loans and hardship fund awards.  I managed to pay my rent and eat and get through medical school and become a doctor.  When I graduated at the age of 26 I was about £40,000 in debt.  It took me seven years to pay that back.

Being a doctor isn't cheap.  You give the GMC money, you give the BMA money (if you want), you pay to sit expensive exams (sometimes more than £1000), you pay your Royal College money (to train and to be a member), you pay your medical insurance and finally you pay a big chunk of money to be on the GP register or the consultant register.  Also, you get a small study leave budget so you pay a fuck load of cash to attend course, buy textbooks, buy equipment and make yourself good enough to do the job.

Also, you damage your personal life.  You travel about.  I've lived and worked in lots of cities and towns.  I've spent 3 and a half years as a doctor mainly living in hospital rooms.  I've slept on the floor at work when I'm meant to be oncall for emergency work (from home) but I don't have a car and I don't trust a taxi to get me into hospital quickly enough for a patient who needs me.  You miss time with family and friends.  You don't spend enough time on relationships.  You blink and you're nearly fucking 40.

So why do you do it?  You do it to help someone.  You might stop them dying.  You might get them out of ITU.  You might stop them becoming disabled.  You might help control their pain or their inconvenient chronic disease.  You might help.  Because you want to help people.  Because you are a doctor.

You are a doctor 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year for the rest of your fucking life until you get to stop being a doctor.  You realise that life is precious and wafer thin.  You know that sometimes you can help and sometimes you can't.  You always hope that you won't be the only doctor on a plane (and that the other doctor is an anaesthetist and not a public health consultant).

So being a doctor is tough but you do it because it's a part of you.  The NHS is a useless monolith sometimes but it helps everyone without asking questions.  It is a privilege to be able to treat every patient without worrying about costs so I guess the monolith is worthwhile.

All this is fine and good but it's becoming more and more unpleasant being a doctor in the UK.  The current rich kid clown show of neoliberal Tory twats that is molesting this country has decided to fuck with the medical profession.  They have picked notorious fud-nugget Jeremy Hunt as their frontman for this project and he is trolling the doctors in England in a massive way.  He is aiming at a reduction in take home, spendable pay for junior doctors of approximately a third.  He is claiming that this is a pay rise and that doctors need to work seven days a week.  He's like a Bizzaro version of a health secretary from a Superman comic. Backwards and fucked up.

Nowadays medical students often have debts of about £70,000 when they graduate.  If they get paid less they won't break even till they are in their 40s.  Hard work and no money makes you miserable.  Why would a smart school kid want to be a doctor in the UK?

We won't have the best and the brightest as doctors if there is no obvious reward.  The job is horrible. It will only be worse if you don't get a comfortable wage.  Smart kids will do something easier that pays more.  They'll work in finance.  Talent will be lost.

Medicine in the UK is probably fucked.  The NHS will probably be dragged down with the medical profession.  Jeremy Hunt will laugh all the way to the bank.

Happy happy, joy joy.