By John Clay, Author/Director & Rock At Night Columnist-London
INTERVIEW: KILL THE ICON!
John Clay speaks with Nishant Joshi, NHS doctor/singing bassist of KILL THE ICON! regarding politics, the NHS, COVID, and more!
KILL THE ICON! (politics and cultural theory)
‘An inordinate number of my patients were in situations where they came into contact with a positive covid patient. The law instructed them to self-isolate. But many of these people were on zero hours contracts. So, if they were to self-isolate, they would lose out on pay – many grappled with this decision. Either you follow the law and worry about how to make rent, or you break the law and you run the risk of spreading covid. I ended up on Newsnight lobbying for self-isolation payments to be brought in – these were made available for about £500 per patient.’ – Doctor Nishant Joshi a.k.a KILL THE ICON!
You’ve gone on record stating the NHS needs more staff. For the layman, can you theorise why there is such a deficit of workers?
Planned obsolescence through austerity, with a view to privatisation. If you sprinkle a little bit of disaster capitalism on the British public health system – longer waiting times for operations, casting GPs as demonic entities, ambulance queues – people will naturally gravitate towards alternatives. Handily, there are a few folk looking to enrich themselves through such an eventuality.
Can you elaborate on the ‘casting of GP’s as demonic entities’. Any specific examples?
There’s a concerted effort from our government to create enemies out of sitting ducks. Recently, efforts have been directed towards making enemies out GPs (DOI: I work in a GP surgery!). It’s been incredibly fanciful propaganda to any sensible person – all based on the idea that GPs are seeing fewer face-to-face consultations than they were pre-pandemic. The key fact is that this was a government instruction, and it was actually praised by the media at the time as “innovative”, “forward-thinking” and the like. The problem isn’t that doctors aren’t seeing enough patients face-to-face. The problem is that there aren’t enough doctors, full stop. If the government keep chipping away at the public’s trust in the medical profession, it’s more likely that the government will escape come the inquiry.
It’s been said that your standpoint isn’t being presented effectively by Labour or the media. Is that unfair, or would you have something to say about this assessment?
I’m not party to the opposition’s political machinations, but this is where being a politician walks a tightrope between being a beacon for truth, and understanding that their constituents are always going to be angry at something or someone. Maybe sometimes it’s a light relief that it’s not you on the receiving end?
News is now just a conduit for engagement, and so I expect lots of professions to get a public beating, in turn. Consider that for much of the last 20 months, we were in lockdown or close enough – the strictest lockdowns meant that the only real news was about stories from doctors and nurses. No sports, no arts, no cultural events meant that journalists were beyond desperate to speak to medical staff. And on the whole, they did an extraordinarily good job in relaying the facts on the ground. It wasn’t easy for them, and I gained a lot of appreciation for the better journalists – I genuinely feel that their ability to put out accurate information in the face of the government’s gaslighting was instrumental in saving lives.
Equally, it’s sad that we’ve now reached a point where some journalists are now painting doctors out to be the enemy. Over 1,000 of our colleagues died, we each made tremendous sacrifices to save lives, and we still managed to vaccinate almost the entire country twice over.
Like, what more do you want? To describe the media as “fickle” in its treatment of healthcare workers would be to afford too much credibility to a machine that churns out propagandised word salad.
You’ve stated on record that your political knowledge has grown significantly in the last five years. Can you approximate in what areas specifically, and how they have in any way impacted the music.
I’d always been rather apathetic to politics, and arguably quite blissfully ignorant too. Working as a doctor, it’s impossible to peel away the impact of politics on our patients. Every political decision has a ripple effect, and the impacts of those decisions show up in our A&E departments and GP surgeries. So, everything is political. I was in denial. I moved through acceptance, and now I’m trying to do something about it.
Can you give an example of an incident or case where that throughline between politics and patients was too hard to ignore?
There was plenty on show during the pandemic. An inordinate number of my patients were in situations where they came into contact with a positive covid patient. The law instructed them to self-isolate. But many of these people were on zero hours contracts. So, if they were to self-isolate, they would lose out on pay – many grappled with this decision. Either you follow the law and worry about how to make rent, or you break the law and you run the risk of spreading covid. I ended up on Newsnight lobbying for self-isolation payments to be brought in – these were made available for about £500 per patient.
What a bizarre history. If you could have a wish list of three changes to be made throughout the NHS what would they be, and more importantly, what would be the realistic incremental circumstances that would make them a reality?
- I strongly feel there’s a huge gap between clinicians on the shop floor and middle-managers who are often interested in protecting their own brand. We have an NHS Chief People’s Officer – still waiting for a reply to my email six months ago – who’s on £300,000 a year. A junior nurse is on around £25,000 a year. Let’s fix that disparity. Pay doctors and nurses a fair wage – especially nurses.
Fair points. Two more changes, and your framing of the issues is much appreciated.
- One of my greatest frustrations during the pandemic was that every time I spoke up, I was kept in check by a communications manager. I was working 13 hour shifts in A&E, during the critical phase of the pandemic, then getting phonecalls from someone who had no idea what was happening just a few floors below them. “We’d rather you didn’t say that.” These folk spied on my Twitter feed. I struggle to see how you can justify that when we need all hands on deck. So I’d certainly be keen to give clinicians more authority in the direction of hospitals.
- Hire more nurses. We can never have enough nurses. They are the lifeblood of the NHS. They are so underappreciated. We need to train more nurses, and hire from abroad where appropriate – we don’t want to create a brain drain from elsewhere.
I wish there was unlimited column space, as you’re right about previous talk about book length; there’s far too much to cover here. Two questions as we draw to a close.
- Would you consider a book to go into all the relevant and important detail to be chronicled without the restrictions of column inches/blog practicality?
- Considering the overt political nature of your band and the history of such an archetype, what plans do you have for the physical copies of your records?
There’s been quite a lot of talk about a book, and even a movie. I’m taking a pause for the time being on the book and will revisit it at a later date. I’ll likely pen some columns for Byline Times over the next few months.
I don’t want to put the cart before the horse – we’ve still got to record a few more songs before we can put a physical record out, but I’m thinking of something pretty cool. I’m thinking about minting some NFTs. I’m not sure what that even means but I want to be the sort of person who does.
Intriguing answers, as ever. And in closing:
- What underground bands inspire you and consequently would like to support?
- For people who are late to the party, what inspired your band name?
I am a huge fan of Regressive Left, who are also based in Luton. Count Paris are an alternative rock band from Watford and they make lush music. Document are going to be the next big thing. A year ago I’d have put JOHN on this list too, but they’ll be playing stadiums next year. Am I allowed to say The Palpitations?! We also supported Glasgow’s MEMES at our first gig, and they blew the roof off. Also a shout-out for a band called Raw Plastic from Poland, who make dreamy shoegaze that I adore.
I wanted to explore cultural iconoclasts. KILL, THE ICON! was the name that stuck.
Thanks for your time, and may your single attract the attention it deserves.