My year in the NHS changed my views upon many aspects of my professional, academic and personal life, but mostly changed my views on how good our NHS actually is.
I am happy to accept that this may be bias, but I really do feel that people are all too ready to criticise our much sought after health service. To back up my point I'll use the recent swine flu pandemic.
Within weeks of having the first H1N1 cases of swine flu confirmed in the United States and Mexico, stories were published in the UK papers voicing concerns about how the NHS could cope with a pandemic. Almost two months later with over 100 confirmed deaths and 56 countries with confirmed cases, these concerns were voiced even louder. Please click here for Telegraph coverage.
A year after these concerns were raised, media coverage turned from the NHS been unable to deal with the pandemic, now stating that the NHS overreacted to the outbreak of swine flu. Click here for coverage.
In the above coverage the focus is also turning attention towards Sir Liam Donaldson 'quitting' the NHS due to his 'overreaction' to swine flu. Surprising when in the same year General Director of Communications for the Department of Health won the PR Professional of the Year award from PR Week.
I find it astonishing that the views shared by those in public relations can be so different from those who are not. Sian Jarvis has received praise from PR practitioners for her ability to handle the swine flu pandemic and manage NHS communications teams across the UK to increase swine flu vaccination uptake, yet at the same time, Sir Liam Donaldson is accused of overreacting.
Now let's look at this from another point of view and consider this scenario. The NHS didn't react to the pandemic and only ordered 10 million swine flu vaccines. This would mean that only one in six of the population would be able to receive a vaccination. Imagine the volumes of negative press about how little the NHS are doing to protect the population. Tabloids would have a field day.
To sum up my blog entry - let's be honest, it's more of a rant than a blog - I think it's fair to say that the NHS was never going to be a winner in this situation and in most contentious issues such as the swine flu pandemic. The NHS had a choice to react and protect the population from a potentially devastating pandemic, or didn't react and suffer the wrath of angry papers slating the NHS response to swine flu. Either way, the negative press still came and the public still complained. Even if it is patting my former colleagues on the back, I say well done to the NHS. After all, we're still here aren't we?