Thursday 8 September 2011

I wish that you could change their minds.

I tell myself that if I brought them to you - the people who suggested these dangerous bills, those who supported them blindly, or with conviction, or against their better judgement, those who had the chance to stand up and say "no", and didn't even show - I tell myself that if I brought them to you, they would change their minds.

You would invite us into your cubicle, and I would draw the NHS-special-issue sound-proof curtains around us. When we were sitting around your bed, I would help you to lift the oxygen mask, and you would tell them what they're doing.

I tell myself that we could explain it to them, and that they would get it, and it would all be alright. But they know. They know exactly what they are doing, and they don't care. Either that or they're in such Westminster denial that they actually believe the stories they spin themselves. Why would they listen to your story when they've ignored everyone else's?

With tears in your eyes you would repeat the stories you've told me - about your care hours being reduced (because the cuts aren't looming in the distance - they're already happening). I will hold your hand as you tell them that your husband can't cope, that he is grey with worry and not able to sleep.

They will say "what about a nursing home?", "how would I pay?" you reply, "and tell me one in my area that would have space for me". (It would have to be close to home, or else you would be trapped there, with no visitors.) They make it sound so easy - they have no idea of the paperwork, and the pleading, and the postcode lottery that can be involved in accessing appropriate care. And being in residential care in your 30s is no easy solution, especially given the standards of 'care' so many receive.

You tell them about the neurologist who diagnosed you, finally, after you were messed around and ignored by so many doctors. She listens to you, she has known you for years, and she has become an expert in your condition and the ways it affects you. One of your biggest fears is that you won't be able to see her any more, that instead you will become a patient of T*sco's own brand neurology. I wish that I could tell you that this would never happen, but it doesn't sound so far-fetched these days.

Your voice steady, you tell them that if your benefits are cut you will kill yourself, that you are both in debt, barely scraping by, and that you would have no other option. You ask them not to take away the little dignity they have left you with - the ability to (barely) feed and clothe yourselves, to keep a roof over your heads.

They will tell you that you'll be fine - that you have "nothing to fear". If I brought them to you, and you told them your story they would say "No, you've got it wrong - it's not you the cuts target, it's the others. We're making the benefits system easier to navigate for you, we're sending the fakers, the manipulators, the scroungers back to work so we have more money to spend on you. We're making healthcare competitive so that they have more incentive to treat you well."

Before we can even process how deluded these people are by their own rhetoric, a camera flashes in your face (the photos will appear on the news websites later - you surrounded by smiling politicians) and they are gone.

[The 'patient' is an anonymised composite, but the stories and fears are very real. The HofL's 2nd reading of the welfare reform bill is very soon. Use this template to write to them, and/or keep an eye out for a Hardest Hit action near you if you're able to participate.]


  1. I I love this!! Please can I cross post it on

  2. Excellent, from rhetoric to reality. Glad I found this, thanks to Sue above and Twitter!

  3. I am in tears because what you say is true, they dont listen, they dont care and the innocent are suffering. Oh for justice in our nation.

  4. @Sue yes, of course

    Thanks everyone for your comments =)

  5. <3 I have tears...I wish they would listen to this...

  6. This is brilliant. Thank you. :-)

  7. I was also a medical student for five years. I have Tourette Syndrome and was treated in an appalling manner by my medical school during my final year. I had done very well throughout, passing all my clinical rotations etc. Due to the 'bullying' I received from senior medical school staff (I was denied any accommodations, support or adjustments also and put through Fitness to Practice just 1 month before my finals) I couldn't believe what they did to me. Some of the comments made by staff were highly prejudicial and also very offensive. I am now unemployed and would not return again to the medical school under any circumstances. I have wasted five years of my life working hard for nothing. I made an official complaint against the university which was upheld and severe criticism was levelled at the conduct of the medical school staff. It was found that both the DDA and GMC regulations on equality had been violated. However I have received no compensation and am now in severe debt. (Tweet: @phoebewonderlan)

  8. thanks for putting into words what so many want to say

  9. Thank you for giving a voice to people like me so eloquantly, It is a very scary place finding myself living within this mess of a system. If every voice is joined together and acted upon we have a chance of at least mitigating the worst of the plans.