What? This isn’t about baking! Or the National Trust! There isn’t even an obligatory picture of a cat!
Please don’t go away. You may have glanced at a few headlines about junior doctor contracts and possible strike action over the past few weeks. I wanted to explain what this means for us and for you. I haven’t put all the facts and figures down for the purpose of easy reading, but if you would like to find out more, you can find out more here: http://medicineforthenhs.weebly.com.
ME AND MY WORK
If you haven’t met me, hello! I’m a junior doctor working in a very busy London district general hospital. I specialise in Paediatrics and it is the best job in the world; I have the honour of helping some very sick children get better and supporting children with chronic diseases and their families.
A junior doctor is a doctor who hasn’t reached position of Consultant yet. In my line of work, that means I’m a junior doctor for at least another 8 years (I have already been a doctor for 2 years). In the last 3 weeks of work, I have worked 72 hours, 40 hours, 52 hours each week consecutively. Next week I work 72 hours. This is not unusual and I usually don’t complain about the hours I work unless I’m particularly exhausted and grumpy after a run of shifts.
On top of this, I’m revising for my entry exams into the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. Exams are a necessary part of progressing in medicine. The exams aren’t easy and doctors often need to repeat them. This first exam I’m sitting costs just under £500 for me to sit.
I pay fees towards representative bodies: the BMA, the MDU and the RCPCH. These fees currently sit at £647 per year. I owe a lot to my parents who are currently in debt for putting me through med school. Most doctors I know received student loans and are still paying off tuition fees despite many years in service.
I do get time to see my friends, eat out and travel, but I also miss out on a lot of important events that I wish I didn’t have to. At least half of my colleagues are missing out on Christmas and/or New Years this year.
WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?
The Government have proposed a new contract to be in full effect from August 2016. These changes were recognised as unfair by the BMA (the body that represents doctors) and negotiations between the BMA and Jeremy Hunt have been at a standstill. The problem is it hasn’t really felt like negotiations, more like being backed into a corner to either agree or agree with the new contract. The proposals include:
1. Increasing the amount of ‘unsocial hours’. Currently, our standard working hours are between 7am to 7pm Monday to Friday. They want to change this to 7am to 10pm Monday to Saturday. This removes any safeguards we had as doctors about the length of hours we work = exhausted, unsafe doctors.
2. Up to 30% pay cut. Most of our pay as doctor comes from working unsocial hours on top of our basic salary. By classifying more hours as normal working hours, we get paid less for those unsocial hours we work. Jeremy Hunt says that he will increase the basic salary we get to compensate, but actually it still means a 15-30% pay cut for the majority = longer hours, less pay.
3. No more increase in salary each year. We currently are paid more each year for service to the NHS, which makes sense – more experience, more seniority, more pay. The Government wants to scrap that and pay the same amount for different grades (ie. Senior House Officer = same pay for all 3 years; Registrar = same pay for all 5 years etc.). This disproportionately impacts doctors who want to take maternity leave, go part-time, take time out to study or research; it will take far longer to gain a pay increase. This of course, will affect the 45% of workforce who are women = a widened gender pay gap.
HOW DOES THIS AFFECT YOU?
Doctors are a very conscientious and dedicated lot, despite what certain media outlets might lead on (*cough* Daily Mail *cough*). We are passionate about free healthcare and the benefits free healthcare can have on our patients. Jeremy Hunt is making it impossible for us to keep up with the demands of a increasing population and not feel depressed and demoralised about our jobs with the new changes. A lot of doctors are thinking about moving to other countries such as Australia where the hours and pay are better. And who in their right mind would want to start training as a doctor in the conditions they’re proposing? Less doctors – less ability to keep up with modern healthcare demands – ultimately, the demise of the NHS. I know personally how much it is to pay for modern healthcare in other countries and I’m so appreciative that I live in a country where I know that my loved ones’ health will be looked after for free. Please don’t take the NHS for granted; before you know it, it may be gone.
HOW CAN I HELP?
- Sign this petition: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/108782
- Join this protest: https://www.facebook.com/events/1695649857321169/
- Spread the word of #notsafenotfair on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram and #saveourNHS.
- Write a blog post on how the NHS has helped you and highlight this very real issue.
- Write to your MP.
Please join us, support us and fight with us. We need your help to save our country’s greatest asset – the NHS.