There’s some interesting debate this weekend with Stephen Hawking being critical of the Conservative government and Jeremy Hunt in particular. So who is trustworthy enough to believe?
As an Emergency Nurse I have to be appropriately qualified for my job. Lets face it you wouldn’t want to come into the ED with me on duty not knowing what to do! So let’s take Hunt, he studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics at University. Prior to working within government he worked as a management consultant, taught English as a foreign language and numerous entrepreneurial adventures including a failed attempt at selling marmalade to the Japanese. Not exactly a glittering career. Professor Hawking on the other hand has a significant amount of qualifications, awards, medals, he is most well known for providing understanding of the world using science, he is arguably one of the greatest scientific theorists of all time!
What science teaches us is to question! As a nursing student we learned to appraise data in a critical way, to check the reliability and validity. As time changes more data is available to appraise and use to validate practice. So one piece of research mentions a weekend effect and 16 other pieces of research say that it isn’t relative. Someone who is a scientist is able to look at the data in it’s entirety and make a balanced judgement. Someone who wants to create issues, or to make up propaganda will be able to find data out but it won’t ever provide a balanced view. This is a bit like if a company is trying to sell something like a drugs company … this is the best drug ever because the one piece of research… that as a company we have paid for … shows us we are right. This isn’t accurate or valid science.
The other thing that intrigues me is the motivation behind stories like this. Professor Hawking’s motivation is what i would consider to be a concerned service user, someone who knows exactly what it is like to be a patient within the NHS. Whereas Mr Hunt has reportedly taken his children to A&E because he ‘didn’t want to wait’ for a GP appointment! This is encouraging the inappropriate use of already stretched services.
As an ED nurse on the floor, I can guarantee that there is no weekend effect. There are doctors and nurses working every single day of the week and if a patient requires emergency treatment they will get it, if they need a scan they will get it, it they need a consultants opinion they will have it. The weekend effect is some fictitious made up theory that is not supported by science. If the health secretary and government had an understanding of what it is actually like to either work within the NHS or be a service user of the NHS they would have an understanding of this! So I’m with Hawking, I’m also very concerned about the NHS!
So my message is before you believe the propaganda, have a look at the supporting scientific data and assess if you think it to be real or not.