“Is there a Doctor in the house?” is a shout that only goes up when illness or injury has come suddenly and publicly upon some unfortunate individual – usually in a public space or amenity and very occasionally in appalling incidences of catastrophe or terror. That call can only be answered by a very, very select few. The few who chose to dedicate a minimum of seven years to the study of the human body’s function and vulnerabilities and also to the alleviation of the pain and distress that those vulnerabilities facilitate.
That call for a doctor is a prime example of a moment when the needs of the many can only be met by the few – and thankfully in the developed world that call is almost always invariably answered swiftly, the citizens of elsewhere are sadly rarely as fortunate.
But what if – even in the developed world -those few became fewer still? What if the noble calling of the medical profession became a little less noble because the long-standing social contract between the doctor and the state had begun to disintegrate? That would make medicine a significantly less attractive career path to undergraduates weighing up the pros and cons of a seven-year degree and training programme – and that’s before the subsequently substantial student debt has even entered the equation.
Sadly in the UK that social contract between doctor and state is under threat, evidenced by the battle royal that is currently raging between Junior Doctors and the Department of Health – specifically the Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt. It would appear the threat to that contract takes the form of an ill-conceived financial restructuring instigated by Mr Hunt. In fact, he has now abandoned the process of negotiating that contract, preferring instead to insist on strong-arm enforcement.
At first glance it would appear that disillusionment could result in us facing a future with fewer doctors to tend to the needs of our ever-growing longer-living population. Essentially fewer few to look after many more.
But, in what is perhaps the finest example of the far-reaching influence of crowdfunding, the many have come to the rescue of the few. A group of Junior Doctors launched a crowdfunding appeal to raise the necessary funds needed to challenge the Health Secretary’s plans in the High Court – and set themselves a target of £25,000. They smashed that target in two days – and to-date have raised more than £86,000.
This is a significant development that has major implications for the relationship between governments and the citizens they represent – the balance of power is shifting, and crowdfunding is tipping the scales.
So next time you hear the call “Is there a doctor in the house”, it is highly likely that crowdfunding will have played a major role in determining if the call is answered.