A near fatal accident, the NHS, Brexit and a general anaesthetic fueled rant.

A nearly life altering, freak accident

On April 4th 2015 I had a freak accident at my Cousin’s wedding in Ibiza. One moment I was asleep on a sun lounger next to a cliff; the next, I woke up mid-flight, freefalling towards the sea 20ft below. I had apparently slept walked straight off the edge of a cliff. I was knocked unconscious when I hit the rocks below and smashed my kneecap into about 10 pieces: I was lucky it was not worse. Had I hit my head or spine instead of my knee, my life would be very different right now. A young boy at the wedding saw me fall and alerted guests including my Dad who managed to get down to the sea and look after me while an ambulance was called; it took an hour to reach me.

The hospital in Ibiza, had it not been for my Dad’s protests, would have plastered my leg and sent me back to the hotel to find my own way back to the UK. The surgeon wasn’t available for 7 days. They also presumed wrongly, being a Brit in Ibiza, that I was on illicit drugs and refused to give me any painkillers stronger than the equivalent of some nurofen. In the end, they plastered the leg and kept me overnight whilst my Dad spent the night sorting out my travel insurance and trying to find me a safe passage home. Luckily I had private healthcare who paid for an ambulance to take me to the airport, paid for seats on the plane and had an ambulance waiting at the airport in the UK to rush me to Homerton hospital on arrival. I remember almost none of this 24 hours as I was in a constant flux somewhere between consciousness and unconsciousness. As soon as I woke, the pain knocked me out again. My Dad reports that my whole body was shaking in shock.

June 17th 2016, 14 months after my accident, the metal was removed from my knee

A special level of care

Once I was in the care of the NHS, the experience was on an altogether different level to that which I had experienced in Ibiza. I was given the appropriate level of pain killers to put me at ease and I was treated by many people who had my interests at heart. All of them deal with hundreds of people a week yet made me feel like I was getting special care and attention. Their level of compassion and commitment to my wellbeing made an unforgettable impact and I will always be grateful for the level of care that I received. I was first operated on on the 6th April 2015 with my knee pieced back together in a procedure called a modified cerclage. I went home the next day on my 35th birthday and would spend the next 7 weeks in bed.

My knee cap prior to surgery has completely disappeared
The modified cerclage. Two pins and a cage hold the bones together

14 months has passed since my initial operation and I sit with my leg up writing this article, having had my final operation yesterday to remove the metal from my knee, the bone now healed. The last 14 months have been spent in and out of hospital, in physio, doing hydrotherapy, having x-rays, speaking to surgeons, getting advice and generally being looked after. When I was home the night after the first operation and the nerve block died off, an ambulance was with me immediately to assist me with the agony. For every step of my recovery, the NHS has been there to hold my hand.

Moving swiftly on to brexit

During my care with the NHS I have been treated by English doctors and nurses, Indian surgeons, a Greek surgeon, a Welsh physio, a German anaesthetist, trainee Nurses that are studying at University, including a student doing a post-graduate masters in nursing who is in the first year to be admitted without previous medical training because the NHS is desperate for nurses. My point is that I have been dealt with by such a diverse mix of culture and gender and it feels like it is part of what makes the NHS great. I felt like I was being treated by a massive family. The NHS and care sector employs 135,000 migrants including 52,000 doctors and 20,000 nurses. If we Brexit, the existing staff may not leave the country, but employing new staff from the EU and beyond will for sure become a hell of a lot more challenging.

So far, the Brexit campaign hasn’t provided any practical numbers. Who are they going to ask to leave? Who are they going to stop from coming in? They also forget to mention that there are far more migrants coming into the country from outside of the EU compared to inside the EU.

A vicious class war on the poor

The brexit campaign is playing on mis-information and scaremongering. They keep re-iterating that if we didn’t give £20bn a year (£350m a week) to the EU, we’d have more money to spend on the NHS. This £20bn figure is incorrect. The true figure after rebates and investment in farming, research etc. is more like a 1/3 of the £20bn figure (Reference John Major’s excellent interview on the Andrew Marr show on 5th June 2016).The likelihood is that Brexit would send the UK economy into a tailspin, with a very strong chance of recession. There would be less money just when the NHS needs extra funding. The world economy would also suffer with other countries following suit with their own referendums and a strong possibility of the collapse of the EU. The impact on financial markets would be felt across the globe and be far more of a longer lasting impact than the financial crisis of 2008. We will recover eventually but this one will take decades.

All the experts are saying that the impacts will be negative, The IMF, The OECD, The Bank of England, leading Scientists worried about grant funding, UK Businesses including my own. There doesn’t appear to be a solid bit of evidence or research from any reputable source that Brexit would be positive.

Brexit aside, the lack of funding for public services is not due to immigration. The problem is austerity. It is now widely accepted that all of the economic research that allegedly supported the austerity push including the doctrine of “expansionary austerity” by Alberto Alesina, has been discredited and the UK is the only western country that still persists with it. This article by Paul Krugman — The Austerity Delusion details this perfectly and a whole year later, the IMF concluded that austerity does more harm than good.

The truth is that blaming the previous Labour government on the financial crisis and the subsequent failing austerity policies are just a veil for the current Tory government to wage a vicious class war against Britain’s poor. Inequality is increasing, public sector funds including but not limited to the NHS are suffering and the working class do not have spare cash to inject into Britain’s economy. Capitalism is dependent on people having money in their back pocket with the freedom to spend it so that money moves around the system. Buckets of money sitting stagnant in rich people’s bank accounts (or in Panama!) with the rich having no requirement to spend it does not benefit the economy and is in fact the point at which capitalism breaks apart. Inequality is a bad thing for the overall economy.

If we ended austerity, focused on growth and tackled inequality, the economy would recover faster and the NHS, education and other public services would have more funding as a result. The £350m a week figures that the ‘Leave’ campaign is throwing about is quite frankly codswallop and the net financial benefit of being in the EU is almost certainly a positive one.

Immigration

Which brings me to immigration and the Leave camp’s disgusting far-right campaign verging on Nazi propaganda and pitching immigration as the root cause of the problem.

The Leave campaign’s poster using a Getty image taken in Slovenia to imply this is a queue into the UK

Immigration isn’t a strain on public services. There is a strain on public services due to the cuts of austerity. The net impact of immigration is certainly a positive (see links below and listen to BBC’s referendum by numbers) to both the public and private sector. Migrants provide diverse skillsets and culture that makes Britain a greater country.

Let’s take Red Badger as an example. Red Badger is the digital consultancy that I own with Stuart Harris and David Wynne in Old St. We are a mid-size company employing about 70 people but finding talented employees is by far our biggest challenge. We process about 300–500 applications a month and have 2 employees dedicated to the cause of finding great people. In a tech community where the competition for talent is made worse by the likes of Facebook up the road distributing all of their profits (and thus paying almost zero corporation tax) amongst their employees as bonuses, over inflates the wages of talent in London. So, Red Badger have to be more innovative in our recruitment techniques and differentiate by creating a great culture and an environment in which our employees can thrive; however, in order to compete, we have to look abroad. Have a read of Amy, our community manager’s blog on the diversity at Red Badger. We employ almost 50% women and from over 20 nationalities around the globe. The resulting environment is one of great creativity and culture. Red Badger is a microcosm of the EU without the bureaucracy. We are a diverse bunch, that work better together as one whole, not apart.

Brexit would be disastrous for us. Our current employees would be unlikely to be kicked out of the country, but like the NHS, bringing in new migrants with the skills we so desperately need would become significantly harder, the competition for talent in London would become impossible and the big corporates such as Facebook would suffocate many of the startups. There are over 600,000 startups in Europe contributing a revenue of over €320bn and employing collectively over 3 million people. If the competition for talent becomes too tight, this will slip backward significantly. The Eurostat statistics is a good thing to keep an eye on. It measures birth and death rate of enterprises in the business economy. In 2013, the services sector in the UK provided 78.5% of the employees with the remaining 21.5% split between industry and construction. The UK services sector and thus the UK economy needs the free flow of migrants bringing key skills into the country.

The politics of fear

I’m fully aware I don’t have all the facts to hand. I have done a huge amount of research on this topic, but still feel like I’m drowning in a sea of complexity in this matter, as the EU and the referendum is a hideously complicated thing. The majority of the nation do not have the knowledge or education on the subject they are voting for and are thus vulnerable to the politics of fear. Lots of disinformation is being peddled, whipping up a state of anxiety, bigotry and anger across the nation: from immigration stories — reporting that 88 million Turkish people will come to take our jobs — to racist rhetoric and the support of The Sun (let’s be honest, Rupert Murdoch has never liked the EU, he can’t control them like he can Downing Street). My worry is that the majority of votes next week will be based on this disinformation and fear without any real knowledge.

The opportunity the remain camp have missed is to set a positive tone. Instead, they have lowered themselves to the same level as the leave camp by spreading fear of economic disaster, threats of higher taxes, fear of a destroyed NHS and recession. They would have been far better to have set out a very different tone. That we are better in it together, what the EU brings us, why we are in it and how we are going to make it better. The positive impact on the economy, the skills that are brought into the country, the scientific research, the NHS doctors and nurses that provide such an amazing service. Instead, it is all doom and gloom and the voters are left with choosing two different varieties of a glass half empty. I am also surprised by the distinct lack of support by Jeremy Corbyn. I am a Labour voter and am frankly disappointed by Corbyn’s contribution to remain. He doesn’t appear to care much about it himself. So far it has been the Dave and Boris show with Blair and Brown holding the fort for Labour. Where is the leadership from Jeremy? He is starting to get involved now but it feels a little forced and a little late.

In Conclusion

The EU certainly isn’t perfect. It’s a behemoth that needs modernising to be more nimble but the same should be said of Westminster. Running away from it is not the answer. We need to find a way of making it better. I think Great Britain is a richer, more wonderful place in the EU. If we leave the single market, people will lose their jobs, startups and small companies in other sectors will be less profitable, the economy will shrink and Britain doesn’t make anything ourselves anymore, we import everything. What will the effect be on that? The misleading Leave campaign is steering the nation to make a decision based on deceitful information, the result of which will impact the lives of Great Britain’s people for decades to come. Please Britain, do not listen to the lies. We are better in this together with the EU countries.

Disclaimer: I had general anaesthetic just yesterday, so do excuse any lax grammar etc…

It’s quite hard to capture so much info and present evidence in a concise, readable article. I realise this article is a bit ranty. That was not my intention. In this article I wanted to provide a personal experience and tie it into how that experience may have been different in a post Brexit world. However, I do realise that this article reads like just another opinion without all of the facts laid out. So please find below some further reading, viewing, listening that is quite easy to digest without having to read IMF reports etc. that I have spent rather a long time doing:

Professor Michael Dougan on the EU Referendum / John Major on the Andrew Marr Show (available until 4th July). Skip to 19:30. / Paul Mason — Brexit is a Fake Revolt / Austerity is a cover story for class war / The Referendum by Numbers — Omnibus: Part 1 / Part 2.

Still confused? Well, then go with the experts. A vote for remain is pretty much every former PM, all of the leaders of the opposition parties, all of the economists, every EU leader, Obama etc… A vote for leave is Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Ian Duncan-Smith and Nigel Farage. Do you want a far right Tory party dedicated to making the rich, richer, removing workers rights etc…?

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