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Let Me Heal You, Comrade: Part I – The Quirks of Socialised Medicine

NewaaronAaron Singh -- With the release of Michael Moore’s controversial new documentary ‘Sicko’, lots of debate has been going on about socialised medicine all over the world, including here in the UK where the National Health System is simultaneously the reward at the end of the long years of medical school and the bane of most doctors’ lives. I haven’t watched Sicko yet, but when I do, I’m sure I’ll have something to say about it as well, which is why I’ve written this post as the first one in a series.

One of the things that HAS happened recently and caused a lot of aggravation, press coverage, and mass suicide of doctors’ brain cells, though, has to do with the whole Modernising Medical Careers (MMC) fiasco I bored you with a few months ago. MMC, the disastrous online application system for junior doctors put in place earlier this year, has been scrapped, leading to deities of all types across the UK being inundated with prayers of thanks. However, before it finally rolled over and went off to the Great Recycle Bin in the sky, it had time to cause one last scandal. Turns out that the security on the (now-defunct) MMC website, where all applications were made and results were handed out, was so low that practically anyone could have marched straight in and accessed applicants’ details. A prominent British medical blogger dug this up and went to the media as well as the government, and Channel 4 News cracked it wide open, leading to the website being taken offline within minutes of the news announcement being made.

Of course, junior doctors were up in arms when they realised that their details were freely available online, and it remains unknown who might have accessed the details, though the government denies that any unauthorised access happened and piped soothing music through public broadcast systems all over England to make it all go away. (Okay, maybe not, but you get the picture.)

Another point of contention in socialised medicine is loss of autonomy. Doctors are a sticky bunch, and we like our autonomy, especially after slogging through years and years of training to get it. Most doctors around the world have enough autonomy to keep them happy and yet in line with public health objectives, but in Britain’s NHS the government has a far bigger say in doctors’ lives and careers, as can be seen with the above MMC exercise, and the reduction in power of the Royal Colleges of Medicine, traditionally responsible for postgraduate medical teaching in Britain.

But ah well. With the good comes the bad, and luckily for us, vice versa. Coming up next time on Let Me Heal You, Comrade: the GOOD bits of life in the NHS! Now all I have to do is go find some…

July 6, 2007 | Permalink


You have provided some very interesting insights, living here in the states I never would have thought of. I look forward to hearing the positives.

Posted by: saraiderin | Jul 6, 2007 2:37:16 PM

I'm not a great fan of a socialised health care system. I can see the downside of a mainly non-socialised system, as seen in the states, but one has to agree that the end product has so much more quality to it! Most of the reason the social system is still standing is due to the passion you mention in your previous blog.

Either way, good to hear the MMC's kicked the bucket: touch wood, it'll make getting a job in the UK a bit easier!

Posted by: Pawlu | Jul 8, 2007 2:29:33 PM

Australia has had socialised medicine for decades. We have trouble getting doctors, and then we have trouble getting doctors to outback locations. If we didn't have a socialised structure for the provision of medicine services (General practitioners, pharmaceutical benefits) then lots of poor people would die- just as they do in the US. We don't hear of that aspect of full fee for service medicine and the medical insurance that costs policy holders so much. Behind the statistics and the debates over which system is the best (socialised versus US style) are the real lives of sick people who die for want of better care. This does not just happen in the third world. Socialised medicine costs dearly, but less so in terms of those who die because their income doesn't support expensive medical insurance...

Posted by: steu | Jul 11, 2007 4:31:33 PM

'Great RECYCLE BIN in the sky' is right... I'm not fully-convinced the MMC has kicked the bucket. I could've sworn I heard the system is merely under 'revision', and might be reimplemented after its 'fully-functional'. And knowing the govt. & the NHS, that could mean anything from fully-functional to er, not.

Or, maybe it's just the split-second flashes on TV you get àla the London 2012 Olympics epilepsy-inducing advertisements that's duping my subconscious into thinking the MMC is gonna happen again... and that when it does, it'll be a GOOD THING.

Posted by: Sheena | Jul 13, 2007 2:35:41 PM

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