Nursing students talk health with minister

Nursing students gave their opinions on health to Gillian Merron, Public Health minister for state, on Friday, March 12th. The “nanny state” was a hot topic, and students questioned the minister’s policy on drugs, smoking and alcohol.

Merron gave a fifteen minute speech on Labour’s contribution to public health, and then opened the floor for questions, where a discussion on the definition of public health took precedent. Students, lecturers and Merron herself came to the conclusion that public health is a “multi-departmental” issue, and that it can’t be restricted to healthcare alone.

Elements of education and living standards should also be taken into account. One student suggested that improving healthcare standards is becoming increasingly difficult due to bad media coverage. She told Merron that papers “like The Sun” consistently pressed forward the accusations that Britain is a “nanny state”.

Merron responded by saying: “the media can be a force for good and bad”, though she remained positive that the media are making a good contribution to public health. Smoking was a key issue too. Both students and lecturers questioned Merron on whether enough is being done to reduce the number of smokers.

Merron revealed that the NHS had helped 70,000 people quit smoking on their campaign, however agreed that more needs to be done to prevent the 80,000+ deaths caused by smoking each year. One controversial attendee suggested that all drugs should be legalised and available in shops, taxed by the government. Merron replied by saying: “there are no plans to legalise drugs”.

Finally, the cheap cost of alcohol was brought up as a concern, to which Merron told students that there is research into how to combat the problem without it harming moderate drinkers or “just making companies richer”.  She closed by telling the attendees that she has helped through law to ban “unsensible deals like ladies drink free and all you can drink for £10”, a deal which the local Chicago Rock Cafe offered until it closed down earlier in the year.

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