Save our NHS
This is a bit of a serious post today. But, last night, I got this rather-desperate message from my university housemate. She’s a junior doctor (and she’s AMAZING – honestly, the amount of times she patched us up at uni) and, quite simply, everything she loves and cares about her job, her life, and the NHS, is being decimated by our government.
So, if you want Bree to have been adequately looked after when she was in hospital. If you want Evie to know that care *is* there if she has another relapse. Or if you want all the real people in your life to be looked after when they’re sick, please do take the time to read this and sign the petitions.
Thanks, you wonderful, lovely, spinsters you.
I hope that you will put up with me having my five minute
post-night shift rant & take a minute to read this. I’m writing because in
the last few months those of us working in the NHS have become increasingly
worried about its future. We discuss it constantly at work, but we’re
disappointed by the poor press attention that the new NHS changes are getting
& it’s important to me that I feel like I‘ve done my small bit to get the
message out there.
I think this is something that has been going on for a while,
but I was completely oblivious to new what was going on until the government
announced that they are going to impose unfair and unsafe contract changes on
all junior doctors. At the same time as this there was also a quiet move to opt
out of the European Working Time Directive and also restrict strike action in
the public sector.
At this time, those of us in the NHS started to finally pay
attention to what was happening. We have had meetings and thousands of us have
begun to protest and will soon be considering strike action. I know that this
is a difficult topic. Emergency care will still be provided and our Consultant
colleagues, who we appear to have the support of, will work on the wards to
make sure that patients do not come to harm, but I wanted to just write a
couple of paragraphs about why the British Medical Association is balloting us
to do this, because when this day comes we need as much support as possible.
The term junior doctor applies to anybody from day one after
medical school to the day before becoming a consultant or qualified GP- this
will be a minimum of 5 years , but for most of us will be in excess of 10
years. We are currently protected by the European Working Time Directive. This
means that our average weekly hours are limited to 48, with a maximum of 91
hours in a consecutive seven day period. This protects us from going back to
the days when Doctors worked 24 hour on-calls. It’s stating the obvious but
research has shown that over-worked, tired Doctors make mistakes. After all,
would you want your relative being operated on by a Surgeon who was in their
14th hour of work, or put to sleep by an anaesthetist who had been on call for
24 hours? Opting out of the EWTD would mean that we lose our safeguards that
protect us from these shift patterns, Jeremy Hunt has already stated that in an
11 hour shift we should only be entitled to one twenty-minute break.
We would also suffer a significant pay-cut, the details are
not clear yet, but estimates would suggest that people with high out-of-hours
commitments (I currently work one in three weekends either days or nights, a
week of nights every six weeks and an on-call 13 hour day every six days) could
lose between 15-30% of our salary, as normal working hours will be reclassified
as 7am-10pm Monday to Saturday. Just as a side note, we do not get paid if we
cannot leave work on time due to sick patients and extra pairs of hand being
needed to ensure that they get proper care. In the jobs I have done so far, I
have regularly worked anything from 1-5 unpaid hours per day. I revise around
three hours per night for three months leading up to each of the six exams I
will have to take. This year I will also pay around £3500 (not refunded) in
registration, medical indemnity and union fees, exams and courses. I will move
hospital around Merseyside between every 3 and 12 months, I get no choice about
where. I work Christmas, miss friends weddings and reunions, miss my familys
birthdays. I am the same as every other junior doctor out there, we are all in
a similar situation- we work the same hours and have the same extra commitments
necessary for us to do our jobs to the best of our abilities.
The reason I’m telling you all this is because I love my job.
I wouldn’t change it for the world, I couldn’t think of a bigger privilege than
what I do day-to day and I would never have even thought of telling you all
this unless everything that we work for as junior doctors was being threatened.
We are being completely devalued and demoralised, treated like an easily
replaceable workforce and presented as lazy, money-grabbing ‘juniors’ who
shouldn’t complain because we went into medicine as a vocation. We want to take
action against these changes, which are both unfair and more importantly unsafe.
However, to make sense of all of this you have to put it in
perspective. The government are privatising enormous chunks of our NHS, 70% of
NHS services between April 2013-2014 were awarded to the private sector. 77 MPs
currently sit on the boards of firms that bid to run NHS services, they will
directly profit from privatisation of our NHS. The most expensive cost in the
NHS is its staff. Junior doctors are just the first in a long line of cuts, if
we lost this fight it will be nurses and physios and hospital porters next. A
cheaper workforce is a more attractive bid for companies lining up to profit
from running hospital services. Our NHS is not perfect, but privatisation is
not the answer. We measure our success in terms of patients, private companies
measure success in terms of profits- this will mean pay cuts, staff cuts,
increased pressure on those left to manage struggling wards and a demotivated
and demoralised workforce. Just look at what happened to Hinchinbrook Hospital,
the first privately run hospital, where the company pulled out of its contract
after only 3 years, leaving the Hospital in special measures. Is this where we
want our friends and relatives cared for?
The NHS is unbelievably important, most of us were born
there, it looks after our families and friends when they are sick, it looks
after the vulnerable and the elderly. It’s one of the best health services in
the world and spending on healthcare per person is also one of the lowest in
the world. Your level of care if the same regardless your wealth. This is so
precious that we cannot afford to put our NHS in the hands of companies who put
profit in front of patient care. We cannot afford to let our NHS go.
If you have read this far I am enormously grateful to you. If
you want to find out more, there is plenty posted to my facebook page and
plenty online that makes interesting reading. There are petitions against
back-door privatisation of the NHS and for the doctors strike on 38 degrees,
the daily express, the guardian etc and if you agree with any of what I have
written then I’d be really grateful if you would take the time to sign these,
it’s so important that people are behind this and supporting us. Please talk
about this with your friends and family so the news about what is going on is
spread. If you feel so inclined, please feel free to email your MP with a
couple of lines to show your support, they need to be inundated to realise how
important this is. Share this with whoever you like if you want to.
As Aneurin Bevan, who spearheaded the development of our NHS
said “The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight