Guy's, King's & St.Thomas's Hospitals Medical & Dental Schools Gazette
home archives links subscriptions memorabilia feedback search gkt forum

February 2002

passim
letters
news
looking glass
features
gkt scientific
case notes
nursing notes
dental notes
reviews
sports
obituaries
 
 
Features

An interview with the President of KCLSU

Chris Piper is the current President of King's College London Student Union (KCLSU). The Gazette talked to him to find out how he thinks relations between KCLSU and GKT could be improved.

What is your history at King's?
I started in 1997 and graduated with Law in 2000. In terms of my involvement with the union, I sat on the SRC for two years and was events manager at King�s College Hall. Last year I was VP for Education and Welfare (a sabbatical position).

What prompted you to stand for the Presidency?
Well, I�d been involved for a year and I got so far in the job; I wanted to finish off some of the things I�d worked on previously. We�ve had a really good time. King�s has a history of in-fighting, but we�ve got a good team this year.

What does your job as President involve?
As President I am based at the Strand. As first officer of the union I am the contact link for students, the college (KCL) and external bodies such as UL, ULU and NUS. There are quite a lot of committees. I'm involved in shaping the future of the union. There is quite a diverse range of meetings; from the principal and more formal college committees to the more mundane meetings such as the library committee. Quite a lot of work goes into producing paperwork for SRC meetings. There's a lot of administration.

What are the worst things about your job?
Some of the more problematic students we�ve had to deal with this year. I've wasted three weeks of my life devoted to them. When you get e-mails accusing you of being corrupt, you have to reply to them and make a reasonable reply, and contact people who they have contacted, and so on.

How are you finding the job overall?
It�s a really good job actually. A lot of tough decisions have had to be made and I�ve enjoyed making them. Changing the executive structure has been tough. Also, our profits have dropped since the merger, and we've had to make savings on expenditure... it�s due to a general over-expansion. KCL expected a lot more money to come in following the merger with UMDS. There are other factors such as changes in student funding; students have less money to spend in bars, etc. Another factor is the redevelopment of Boland House, which cost us about one million pounds; paying back the loan for that is costing us �80,000 a year.

Is it true that there are some problems with the insurance claim following the flood?
Yes. When the flood happened, it destroyed the bar and all the stock. We have lost out on the profits for the period during which it was closed, which we estimate to be around �70,000. The problem is, when the flood happened the property was still under KCL ownership, so it wasn't covered by our (KCLSU) insurance. We should get the money eventually, in three to five year's time.

In the recent KCLSU elections, there has been a streamlining of positions. The number of SRC reps has been cut in half. Why is this?
Last year we had 66 positions which people could stand for. If people have to fight for their positions, they might take them more seriously. We have to get away from the days when people would put their nomination in, get elected automatically and then do nothing.

What exactly is the new 'Officer without portfolio' position?
The position is there to help out the union; it would take its mandate from the SRC and the executive, for example some of the positions left over from the site officers... to deal with a wide variety of issues, such as student funding and library cutbacks.

How do you think poor voter turnout for KCLSU elections can be improved?
This year we have increased the number of voting days. We will also be opening ballot boxes at the same time as the hustings. We have to make sure that there is effective campaigning. The new executive structure, by making the SRC more relevant, will increase student interest anyway.

Why do you think the GKT Rag Week is so much more successful than the KCL equivalent?
There are several reasons. One is the historical tradition, and the fact that it�s a tried and tested format. The (medical/dental) course is longer so experienced people from higher years can help out as well. KCL Rag Week last year made �20,000, and the GKT Rag Week last year was phenomenal, raising well over �100,000. Other places like Bristol and Leeds have full-time sabbaticals and staff members dealing solely with Rag Week, so I think we do really well considering.

As President of KCLSU, many students hold you ultimately responsible for the abolition of the GKT VP.
The decision to abolish the GKT VP was taken by the SRC, following a tense debate involving three counts and a secret ballot. I think the new position will take the union forward as a whole over the next few years. The new �Sites and Services� position also has more power than the previous GKT VP. The GKT VP was actually a bit of anomaly because they were duplicating roles done elsewhere - they never had authority to do anything.

Gabrielle Lofthouse, SMEC President, believes that SMEC�s workload will increase due to the scrapping of the GKT VP position. Do you agree?
I don't think so. Over the last few years SMEC have been very cagey as to the role of the GKT VP. Last year a member of SMEC actually told Guy (Schofield) to �keep out of SMEC�s business because it was not his business.� We want the new Medical and Dental Officer to work together with SMEC. We are developing a course rep training system next year, so the SMEC reps will be able to have proper training.

Students at St. Thomas' House have been thrown out and replaced by builders. Have KCL made more rooms available to compensate for this?
No. The college has lost 60 rooms. There was no space on the St. Thomas' campus for the builders to put their huts, and the trust approached KCL about the possibility of using St. Thomas' House for this. Although KCL anticipated the grief they'd get from students about this, they decided that it would be better than renting out the rooms to students because the place would be a mess. We'd have got complaints if St. Thomas' House had stayed open. There would have been complaints whatever happened.

Lusty's is going to be partitioned, one half for the builders and one half for students. What do you think about this?
The problem with Lusty�s is that it loses up to �90,000 a year. The staff bill is more than the income it generates. We wouldn't be too keen on the builders using St Thomas� Bar, because we don't want them fighting with the students. We�ll keep a watch on things.

In your opinion, what are the major issues affecting students?
The general funding of higher education is causing many problems. An example is the chronic underfunding of the libraries, although there is a plan for KCL to increase library expenditure by three million pounds. Many of the college buildings are crumbling away, and need a lot of money to be spent on them. Another problem is the college selling off halls of residences. KCL is going to have a shortage of 750 bed spaces by 2005. That raises the possibility of involvement with the private sector, or even more college halls being sold off to pay for further redevelopments. That is a very worrying development. Those who will be hit hardest are returning students, postgraduate students and students who enter through clearing.

What are KCLSU doing about the current state of student funding?
We�re very involved with the ULU and NUS campaigns. It looks likely that grants will be introduced in some form, with students having to pay tuition fees once they finish. There are also plans to introduce commercial rates of interest on student loans. We are encouraging students to go on the marches, and we give out free beer and chocolate. Numbers count more than anything else. There is a good website,
www.faxyourmp.com, where you can fax your MP automatically. We are also involved in organising a lobby of Parliament. The government is quite keen for the college to get involved with their �social engineering�, widening access to greater numbers of students. This is all very well, but they need to provide the finances for this. Medicine is an expensive course to do. If students are required to borrow up to �30,000 many will be put off, especially those from poorer backgrounds.

What have been your main achievements as President of KCLSU?
I believe that the executive reforms are in the best interests of the future of the union. I�m pleased having been on the executive committee which managed to get dental equipment charges dropped. Another achievement has been getting an extra member of staff for the Greenwood theatre, enabling more productions to be put on there.

What is the current relationship between KCLSU and the GKT Gazette?
We have written letters to them in the past. If they want to speak to us, we�ll speak to them. It makes sense to have greater dialogue to reduce suspicions.

Do you have a message for the GKT students?
Get involved with the elections, clubs and societies. The only way you can change anything is by getting involved with the union. There are a lot of good people out there who have a lot of good things to say. It�s important for these things to be channelled in the right way. People complain but they don't always understand what has happened and why.

Chris Piper can be contacted at: president@kclsu.org

Interview by Shaheen Khan


Official KCLSU Response

Having read the articles �What is going on at KCLSU� and �KCLSU attempts to swallow GKT� in the January 2002 edition of GKT Gazette, it seems apposite to correct some of these articles� inaccuracies and lay some facts before KCLSU�s members and associates, in order that this useful debate may continue on a steadier footing. Since we doubt that Charles Gund, author of the piece in �Looking Glass�, would have much interest in such affairs as Gund is a pseudonym used by Dom Joly in stand-up, the lack of frankness in this article is established from the start. It is our intention to deal with these issues thematically, starting with Clubs and Societies. To follow, we�ll touch on some fiscal data, and then deal with the issue of VP GKT, the changes to the Executive committee structure and to the Student Representative Council (SRC) and will finish with a discussion of our current and future activities.

Clubs and Societies affiliated to the Union receive some �180,000 per year in fiscal assistance, plus dedicated staffing, administrative and IT resources, since they are the major way in which we can assist our members. There are no plans to merge any sports teams, rather we are extremely keen to build on the excellent reputation and name so many of the GKT and KCL clubs have gained. A major boon occurred recently as Alex Siddell (VP Sports & Societies) and Guy Schofield (VP GKT) negotiated the hire of another staff member at the Greenwood theatre, on the Guy�s campus, enabling a two-fold increase in the number of shows our societies can launch in that splendid space.

There is mention in Charles Gund's article of the �overzealous bureaucracy� of the Student Activities Department here at the Union (this incorporates the old Sports and Societies department with the volunteering function and other extra-curricular activities). This simply isn�t true. Anyone travelling on the tube or watching TV (or studying to be a medic) today will be very aware of the increasingly litigious culture in which we exist. Accidents can and do happen when sports clubs and societies go about their activities. Since the Union and, we assume, members of the clubs and societies themselves cannot afford to fight legal action, we have to ask clubs and societies to ensure we and, most importantly, they are covered. A crippling lawsuit is not something most students have the time or resources for, so a few (admittedly dull) forms are not an excessive price to pay for when things do go wrong.

Our facilities and investment in the GKT sites are decried in Mr Gund�s article. It is suggested that things would be better if there was a �demerge� of sorts - with a Strand/Waterloo-based KCLSU and a Guy�s-based GKT Union. In the last financial year, the GKT sites produced an income of just under �40,000, against just over �205,000 from the Union�s other commercial operations. The Waterfront bar was refurbished for under �20,000 this summer; Tutu�s bar was refurbished for around �35,000 the year before. The refurbishment of Boland House came in at about �800,000. Moreover, if one considers expenditure against income across the sites, the capital and interest payments on the Boland House redevelopment alone swallow the income from all GKT sites and then demand an extra �40,000 subsidy per annum. Any charge that the Union is failing to invest in its members� facilities at Guy's is somewhat flawed.

After the merger, the Principal and the then Dean of GKT agreed to fund the sabbatical position of VP GKT for three years. Guy Schofield is the fourth incumbent, as the Union decided last year to fund the post from its own revenue streams in order to ensure the smooth completion of the merger and any issues surrounding it. This year, after making a number of our permanent staff redundant in order to reach a position whereby we could begin to make a surplus with which we could improve and add facilities and support for our members, it was decided we should lose a sabbatical officer, and review the portfolios of all executive officers. The Executive took a proposal to SRC, which axed the VP Finance & Services, spread its responsibilities between the President and the Union�s finance office, and altered the job description of the other officers to more accurately reflect the needs of the Union�s members today. One of these changes was to rename VP GKT to VP GKT & Waterloo, adjusting the role to mirror the responsibilities of Professor Sir Graeme Catto, current Dean of GKT, representing students of the scientific disciplines taught at Waterloo as in addition to those studying on the hospital sites.

At the SRC meeting a member in no way linked to the executive proposed renaming the VP GKT & Waterloo to VP Sites & Services. A lively debate followed, with Guy Schofield (representing the Executive) proposing retention of the status quo. It is true, as Messrs Gund & Khan assert, that the SRC meeting was held in the School of Biomedical Science's reading week, however that week was also reading week for the Schools of Humanities, Social Science & Public Policy, and Physical Sciences and Engineering. Far from �springing� either the meeting or the amendment on unsuspecting Representatives, the agenda and other materials were supplied to Representatives more than a week before the meeting, preparing them adequately for what was to follow. When the proposal came to vote, it tied 15:15. At this point the chair declined to cast the deciding vote, preferring the recount mentioned by Shaheen Khan�s article. The result of this was the secret ballot leading to the VP GKT and Waterloo position falling.

KCLSU has undertaken to reform more than just the executive this year. The governing body of the Union, the SRC, is being reformed also. It is well recognised that there is very little interest in this body by the majority of students across all schools. Sports and Societies have only one voice on the governing body, that of their VP. Rag Week is a major part of the second semester and heavily involves the Union and until this year had no say in how the Union was run. The changes the current Executive committee are implementing drastically restructure and update the SRC. First the number of seats will be halved, with the ratio becoming one seat per 200 students in each school. This will encourage more competition for seats, with candidates having to work harder to be elected and therefore work harder once on the SRC. Eight seats will be given to sports and societies reps co-opted from the Student Activities Council. The President of both GKT and KCL RAG Weeks will also be given seats. A Medical & Dental officer has been created on the Executive committee from this summer, giving members based at the hospital sites access to the very top. SRC now has the power to create temporary positions both on the Executive and on SRC to allow the Union to change its representational structure faster to react to major issues affecting its students. In short, SRC and the Executive have been made more flexible, having their members drawn from all the activities in which the Union invests its time and resources, with the effect of increasing the number of students who know (and can influence) a Representative or Officer.

As a better constructed, better run, more flexible Union, we will be able to do even more to respond to the needs of our members. Campaigns such as those involving our members' libraries and tuition fees will improve still further. Taking libraries - it is fallacy to assume, as Mr Gund does, that the actions of the GKT Gazette or of the brief flurry of national publicity has brought around the change in the fortunes of Tommies Library. A large amount of behind-the-scenes wrangling between the college and Guy�s & St Thomas� NHS Trust, prompted at every turn by the Union (a fact acknowledged by the Principal), has reached the conclusion that the Trust will give a small proportion (c. �100,000) of its teaching allocation to the library this year, with negotiations ongoing for increased amounts in the future. This safeguards the continuation of this essential service for all students.

With tuition fee instalments and related expenses, two major victories have been ours of late. Dental students have been spared the equipment charges threatened by college, thanks to Guy Schofield and tuition fees can now be paid in instalments, as a result of intensive lobbying by Richard Hilton and Simon Whalley. The ongoing �Grants Not Fees� campaign will receive valuable attention on 20th February, with the march through central London. We strongly urge members to attend - while cogent debate and lobbying will go a long way, sheer numbers often have a larger (and more telegenic) impact on the powers that be.

Our services and facilities are becoming more popular and well-used every year - the Events department has been particularly successful, persuading people across the river from the Strand to nights at Guy�s and vice versa. This year we intend to apply for funding to open a coffee lounge in the old gym at Denmark Hill, with PAWS PCs and comfortable seating (similar to the coffee lounge at Boland House). St Thomas� House and Block 9 occupy much of our time, as we continue the process of lobbying College and Trust executives on the deteriorating condition and future availability of our members� facilities here.

Finally, we must take issue with Mr Gund�s assertion that the �sense of community and pride in the hospitals that has been lost� since the merger. On the contrary, the GKT identity is the strongest in the college, shown by the ever-spectacular GKT RAG, in which a record number of first year students became involved this year and by the continuing success & professionalism of GKT clubs and societies.

The Union is here for its members. It is absolutely proper that our members should analyse and debate our activities and campaigns. However this debate must be taken beyond familiar and inaccurate rhetoric. Our members have two responsibilities; to inform us of their needs and to support the campaigns we launch on their advice. The same old faces, skilled in cajoling and lobbying as they may be, are not as effective in bringing around change as a body of thousands of students bombarding the College, Trust and government with emails, postcards, petitions and demonstrations. Squabbling among ourselves while government and college rob us of our rights and facilities is a bad use of all our time. Tell us what you need, get involved, and we will, with your assistance, improve things for all students.

KCLSU Executive Committee


St Thomas�s Hospital - A Concise History

Part of the original St. Mary's Priory, Southwark, which was later to become St. Thomas's Spital. The gateway is shown as it survived in 1811.February 2002 sees the start of an ambitious project for GKT Gazette. Over the coming months, a series of articles about the history of St Thomas�s Hospital will be published. The purpose of this study is twofold. 1) To give a fuller account of the history of St Thomas�s than has been published in these pages before. This is intended to stimulate greater appreciation for the hospital, which is such an important part of our history. It is also made more poignant in view of the sad fact that there is a current diminishing awareness of the St Thomas�s Hospital campus amongst newer students at GKT. 2) To take St Thomas�s Hospital as a representative case study for the evolution of voluntary hospitals in Britain. The rationale for this concerns the predicament that the present day NHS finds itself in. Many healthcare professionals are of the opinion that drastic changes need to be made to the national provision of healthcare in order for hospitals and associated services to function more effectively, and so it would seem that the time is right to study the provision of healthcare, both historic and contemporary (including international schemes). I aim to use the history of St Thomas�s as an illustration of an organisation which, being one of the oldest of its type still in existence, has undergone many changes and consequently borne witness to many successful, and many failed ideas of healthcare provision through the ages. I hope to do it justice.

I. Monastic Beginnings 1106 - 1215

Monastic Infirmaries

The story of a British hospital which dates itself from Saxon or Norman times is inevitably linked with the church. Although there were lay doctors at this time who charged for their services and treatment, the first fixed locations where healing/treatment services were offered were primarily in charitable Christian foundations. It is thought that this first �service for the health of the people� came into existence as a result of the organisation of religious houses at that time. As monks and sisters withdrew from the world to a priory or abbey to save their souls, they would have found it necessary to treat their ailments and diseases for themselves. Almost certainly they would have used the knowledge that they acquired thus, to do what they could for wayfarers, as well as treating the poor who, perhaps could not afford the attentions of a private doctor. The resultant clinical experience would cause it to be the first port of call to those in need nearby. Such behaviour on the part of the ordained was merely an example of Medieval Piety. And so the very first infirmaries, or �spitals�, (later �hospitals�), would retain direct links to the church right up to the Henrician Reformation, and the consequent closure of major churches and hospitals.

St. Mary Overie

There is evidence to suggest that the origin of St Thomas�s Hospital, as the infirmary of such a priory was as early as the start of the twelfth century, during the reign of Henry I. The priory in question stood at the present site of Southwark cathedral, and was St. Mary the Virgin�s Church and Priory of Augustine Canons, otherwise known variously as the Priory of St Mary Overie or St Mary the Virgin, of Southwark. The oldest definitive evidence of it is the Norman building of Bishop Giffard which dates from 1106.

From the beginning, the infirmary that was to become St Thomas�s Hospital was staffed by Augustinian cannons. This is noteworthy, though unsurprising as about the same time there was a similar infirmary under the control and supervision of an associated Augustinian priory north of the river. This was what would become the present-day St. Bartholomew's Hospital, and as we shall see, the two hospitals developed in a similar way for quite a while. Often cited as a factor conducive to the advent of charitable hospitals, the Order of Augustinian cannons was well suited to the ministry of the sick, being lighter in spiritual duties than other orders. It was natural for such help to be offered - the opening clause of the rule of St. Augustine being �Before all things, dearest brethren, let God be loved, then your neighbour�. However, though it is true that it has always been an injunction of the Christian faith to help the sick and relieve suffering, it is reasonable to suppose that hospitals of a similar description did not exist before the establishment of the monastic infirmaries. Prior to that time, priests (who no doubt visited the sick as part of their duties) lived in their own homes and congregated only at church.

The location of the priory of Mary Overie was quite singular, being at the point where the great southern roads from the Cinque Ports, and those from the important cities of Winchester and Canterbury entered London. Travellers entered the city of London by the only southern route (the ancient Roman bridge at Southwark, which was adjacent to the priory). Being on such a well travelled route meant that St Thomas�s soon found itself as the general hospital which served the population in the south while St Bartholomew�s served the City population to the north.

St. Thomas the Martyr

It is generally accepted that there was a special part of the priory devoted to helping the sick from the earliest days of the priory, but by the late 12th century, it was gradually gaining its own identity and there would have been a clear distinction between the work of the hospital and that of the priory.

A view of a nearby contemporary of the Priory of St. Mary, the great Priory of Bermondsey (founded 1080), and the open country south of it. Bermondsey also offered treatment to poor women and children at the time.On the 29th of December 1170 Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury was murdered at Canterbury Cathedral. He was slain by four knights, who were acting on what they perceived to be King Henry II�s wishes. Thomas Becket was soon regarded as a saint, and duly canonized in 1173. This had several effects on the hospital. Perhaps the longest lasting, was that he was taken as patron, and the infirmary became officially known as St. Thomas's Spital . A rather indirect effect of Thomas Becket�s canonisation was the added work of tending to the many pilgrims who subsequently made the journey to his shrine at Canterbury. They were more often than not the worse for wear when they returned, via Southwark. Henry II was himself one of the first pilgrims, and walked there on foot. Combined with the normal demands made on the infirmary, it is reasonable to suppose that the resources of the priory were taxed to their utmost limits. Certainly the canons at this time were hard put to find the money with which to carry on their good work.

Peter de Rupibus

It was around 1195 that Peter de Rupibus (also known by the French form of his name, Pierre des Roches), took an interest in the neighbouring priory - he often stayed at nearby Winchester house. Peter de Rupibus was a professional soldier of fortune who later became the bishop of Winchester. As an indication of his importance, it was he who crowned the boy-king Henry III in 1216.

The arrival of a pestilence in 1198 increased the demand for the hospital�s services, and put great strain on its resources, yet there was worse to come. In 1212 there was a great fire at the priory which destroyed the infirmary, and most of the priory. This could have had a calamitous effect on the fledgling hospital, but for the intervention of Peter de Rupibus, Bishop of Winchester, in whose diocese lay the priory. In 1213, in order to raise funds for it�s rebuilding, he granted an indulgence of twenty days to all those who contributed to the fund. Temporary buildings had been started on the site of the original infirmary, but a decision was about to be taken which would shape the hospital for the next 646 years.

Reference:

Chartulary of St Thomas�s Hospital (Chartulary of the Hospital of St Thomas the Matyr Southwark (1213 to 1525))
Trans. Miss Drucker, ed. F.G. Parsons
The Surey Fine Art Press, Published privately for the Governors of St Thomas�s Hospital, 1932

Acknowledgements:

Many thanks to Dr Colin Stolkin for his help in the preparation of this article.

Richard Hughes

St. Thomas's Hospital, as seen from Thames House on the North side of the Thames about 1938.