The Power of Public Service

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Has the threat making the junior doctors strike finally begun to be seen off? As the BMA calls of its planned action for next week, Lambeth Keep Our NHS Public member Lyndall Stein reminds us: beware the beast that draws the threat, it has no heart but tells beguiling lies, knowing the cost of all yet valuing nothing. Unlike the NHS. 


On the picket line on Tuesday last week – outside my own hospital St Thomas’s, I heard a young doctor (of course by the time you get to my age all the junior doctors look young) patiently explaining to a journalist the importance to all of them of public service.

This is difficult to understand if your world view is dominated by money and profit – not commitment, passion and selflessness. That is why the government and the reactionary and ideological media who serve them keep trying to position the junior doctors’ struggle as just about money. This was so ridiculously presented in the Sun recently, portraying it as motivated by the junior doctors’ need for ‘lavish lifestyle’ – all of this was so effectively mocked on social media by the junior doctors themselves.

How does that public service ethos express itself? Perhaps in Accident & Emergency at St Thomas’s. Jay, my partner, had an incident with his heart and then definitely lost his heart to the dedicated junior doctor; who, working through a terrible case of laryngitis, whispered to him in a Marlena Dietrich kind of voice “Your urine is really good Mr Paine”. Why did she drag herself into work at the frontline of a busy hospital, despite being unable to speak properly? Not for money, but for her patients, for her colleagues – for public service. We were lucky enough to have her reassure us, even though we had to struggle to hear her in the hustle and bustle of A &E on a weekend shift.

Lyndall Stein
Lyndall Stein

On the picket line with the Lambeth KONP I learnt that Gay, its determined leader, is a hospice nurse – my admiration for all those who work with people at the end of life knows no bounds right now. We just went through the long hours of the death watch with my old Dad. We had such extraordinary help from the NHS, the district nurses, the Palliative Care team and of course Marie Curie – all brilliant!

Just one bit of grit in this wonderful tapestry of dedicated public service, if you are to believe the government and the right-leaning press: the “for profit” out-of-hours doctor: grumpy, inauthentic, insensitive. And imaginary. A convenient construct to prop up a convenient myth: that the NHS is all about money. It is not. It never was.

The power of public service is the wonderful and extraordinary fuel that drives our NHS, that founded our NHS, that binds it together – this is core to the struggle the junior doctors are leading.  It is the miraculous beating heart of our NHS.


  • Got a point of view you’d like Keep Our NHS Public to promote? Send your ideas to Alan Taman


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