The 'P' word certainly stirred up some heated debate and I'm glad that, for once, something I've raised for discussion hasn't descended into abuse just because I have an opinion.
Your arguments against the privatisation of the NHS were largely sound but I wasn't arguing in favour of the slicing up of an entire system. Rather, I was looking for a debate on the removal of those parts that are costing us so much and which achieve, for the money we pay in, so little. A private company, employing medical professionals, to scrape up the drunk and wasteful from our street would be one idea. They could be taken to a hospital that has 'opted in' to the scheme to recover. Once it had been established that they had just been drunk, a fee would be imposed for the cost of their care. It's a work-in-progress idea but it's not very different from the principle of the 'Booze Bus' that my colleagues currently run, except that there is no penalty imposed and so a lot of youngsters think it's a badge of honour to get on it - like an ASBO - due to it's fame after lots of TV coverage.
And yes, some of the great unwashed would simply not pay and a solution to that problem would have to be found but, just like charging a fine for calling out the Fire Service inappropriately, most people would pay it and probably learn a lesson from it too. If the cost of getting drunk is going to be exceeded by the cost of recovery, then it may be best to temper your drinking behaviour. It's not ideal but it's never been tried, so it might be worth a go.
And for those of you who argued that health workers would be poorly paid in the private sector, you were obviously thinking of large companies with shareholders. I was not. Doctors, Nurses and Paramedics continue to earn more working for small, private companies, that's why so many of them can be found attending sports events and the like.
Nevertheless, it is very worrying that we have reached this juncture; where we cannot see, one way or the other, how our great health system can be fixed. There is a Utopian ideal and it's one in which the hospitals are efficient and clean. where staff are well paid, happy and dedicated to the care of their patients. One in which the person in charge is not a suit-wearing Manager but a senior Doctor with the right qualifications to understand the basics of economy and team-work. That, unfortunately, is a 'Carry-on' movie.
Now, to more nitty-gritty that you won't like.
I have received more and more emails by young people (and some not so young) who want to start University and get a degree in Paramedic Science. I get a lot of requests for information and advice but, unlike a few years ago, my recent feedback has been rather negative.
I have been saying for some time that the over-recruiting of new student paramedics in the UK would lead to a glut and that, sooner or later, there'd be too many cooks and not enough broth. This is now happening. There are not enough jobs for them and with the economy in its current state, there will be less prospect in the near future for those embarking on a career as a paramedic, or nearing the end of their course.
University fees are rising, with most of the establishments demanding the maximum amount (£9,000) for certain courses. So, things look even more bleak for a new generation of paramedics and it's a damned shame.
Sure, there will be retirement vacancies and 'dead man' shoes to fill but most Trusts won't be recruiting into those posts because it will save money not to... and they all have to save money.
I still believe this is one of the best jobs on Earth and I encourage those who want to become paramedics to fight on but the reality of the situation must be considered first. It's become an expensive career to embark upon; the cost of getting a C1 licence, which is a necessity, is almost £1,000... then there's the annual Uni fees and living expenses for 2 - 3 years. After all that, you may not even have a job to go to.
The private sector may still be an option and some services are filling posts that were unfillable during the good old days, when services like London were favoured by new paramedics, so all hope is not yet lost!
My advice to those of you who wish to become paramedics is this: think it through, talk to paramedics you know and find out about your local ambulance service - test the water and remember you are looking at the future, not now. What's it going to be like in two or three years time?
Remove thoughts of glamour or excitement from your mind and focus on the cost of becoming a paramedic, the possibility of failing the course at any stage and the reality of qualifying without a job to practice in. Then do what you think is best for you and if that means continuing on the path to becoming a paramedic, then at least you were very sure of your course.
I'm very proud to have been the reason many people became paramedics, including my own son. At least a dozen of you have told me that this blog has influenced your decision to join an ambulance service and help others... that's all great but I won't be the one who tells more of you to carry on without thinking it over.
I'm back on the road for a shift soon and will be reporting back more stories from the front-line. It's a weekend night shift, so expect the word 'drunk' to be used frequently