Guest post: "It is my duty as a doctor to strike"
Junior doctors have been left with no choice but to strike says Dr Rachel Clarke, but on those days some will be offering basic life support training sessions for local groups
Posted on: Tue 01-Mar-16 15:50:50
(162 comments )
Next week, for two of seven days, your hospitals and general practices will be emptied of their junior doctors. We'll still be there covering the emergencies, but non-urgent care will carry on without us. I'll wake up, I have no doubt, feeling queasy with guilt, and will drag a heavy heart to the picket line.
No one wins in an industrial dispute that's become as toxic as it is tiresome, but for the public – who are by far the biggest losers – patience must be wearing exceedingly thin.
I'm haunted by the fear that you must listen to both sides, government and doctors, insisting they prioritise patient safety above everything, while feeling thoroughly sick and tired with the whole lot of us.
When helping is ingrained in what you do, leaving those for whom you care feels wretched. And yet – yet again – I'll be on strike next week. Like 98% of junior doctors, I feel the government has left me no choice. Because for all the heartache and frustration next week's strike will provoke for patients, the alternative is so much worse.
David Cameron would have you believe this dispute is about nothing more noble than our pay packets. He has a vision, he will tell you, of a "truly seven-day NHS" – which only the avarice of junior doctors stands in the way of. But this is not a pay dispute. None of us chose medicine to get rich quick, and none of us are asking for more money.
This is a matter of putting patients first. As someone who already works one weekend in four on the frontline of the NHS, I'm pretty certain the strength of my desire for better weekend services vastly outstrips my Prime Minister's. I desperately want the CT and MRI scanners my patients need up and running on Saturdays and Sundays. I desperately want their biopsies processed, their lab results calculated, as swiftly at the weekend as any other day.
If we are forced to work more thinly across seven days, what you will get in a "truly 7-day NHS" is a workforce too demoralised, too overworked and too exhausted to do a decent job for you. We have nothing left to give, and burned out doctors are a threat to safety.
What I want for my patients, in essence, is the small army of NHS staff who provide care five days a week, on duty for seven.
But – and this is the crux of the matter – what I will never do is pretend that you can have a "seven-day NHS" without funding it. David Cameron claims he cares about patient safety at weekends, yet he's pledged not one single extra pound towards an improved weekend hospital service. Instead, his government's cheapskate solution is to stretch an already broken workforce of juniors so that we provide seven days care for the price of five. That's not a pledge, it's a scam.
What you need, to put weekends on a par with weekdays, is a whole new raft of staff, safely delivering new weekend services. Jeremy Hunt's own Department of Health has estimated – in figures leaked to the Guardian newspaper – that a seven-day NHS requires 11,000 more staff, 4000 of which are doctors. Yet right now, across the UK, thousands of NHS nursing and doctor posts lie vacant. BBC Freedom of Information requests have just revealed that the NHS currently has 6000 too few doctors. The gaps in our rotas already endanger our patients. If we are forced to work more thinly across seven days, what you will get in a "truly seven-day NHS" is a workforce of junior doctors who are too demoralised, too overworked and too exhausted to do a decent job for you. We have nothing left to give as it is, and burned out doctors are a threat to patient safety.
My duty as a doctor is therefore to strike. But as a mother of two young children, as well as junior doctor, I don't want my strike days to be spent in vain. Next week, on 9th-10th March, for any Mumsnetters who'd like them, junior doctors are ready and waiting to provide local basic life support training sessions aimed at mothers with babies and young children in particular. Our #littlelifesavers sessions will teach you with the skills to handle an emergency with your child, such as choking or stopping breathing. Every #littlelifesavers group of doctors will include a qualified advanced life support instructor. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like us to set up a local session with you. We'll try our very hardest to make this happen.
Photo: William Perugini / Shutterstock.com
By Rachel Clarke
"My duty as a doctor is therefore to strike."
Sadly, I agree with you.
When politicians deliberately break the system you're working in, as the last few governments have done with the decimation of social care funding to councils, and the Health & Social Care Act 2012 to privatise the NHS bite by bite, then no amount of "working harder" on your part can fix that.
I'll be thinking of all NHS staff and patients on 9th-10th March.
(Some of my family are being told to work illegally long hours while carrying out procedures on patients. I've been worried for a long time about what they're being ordered to do, and how they are treated by management if they dare point out the risks to which management are exposing patients.)
I'm a Nursing Student. I support you!!
Good luck, Rachel. I completely agree that you've been given no choice but to strike.
I'm behind you all the way on this
(Sorry that should be it is St David's day after all )
I'm a consultant. Im fully behind the juniors (it's us and nurses and AHPs next). We will be working to ensure the safety of all of the patients during the strikes.
Put simply if the government want elective services 7 days a week (emergency services are already 7 days per week) then it makes no logical sense to stretch the existing junior doctors without any investment in other things like diagnostic tests it's a pledge which cannot be fulfilled.
Brilliant post OP. I applaud you.
I have worked or the NHS for 18 years and can hardly believe the protection of hours for doctors - to create a safer environment for everyone - is being undone so easily by this government. Shame on them but well done you all for standing together against them.
Every single doctor on YouTube, the news, Facebook, whether it be an interview or comical song to get the point across, makes their point very strongly indeed.
I feel the public should be standing there on the picket line with you all. Certainly I have not met a single person who supports the government on this one. How they are still pushing through is almost beyond belief.
You have my full support and I take my hat off to you.
If we are forced to work more thinly across seven days
From the BMA website:
Does the increase in 'standard' time from 60 to 90 hours mean that I will be working more hours than I do currently?
So according to the BMA you will not be forced to work more thinly across seven days.
No we mean spread the existing junior doctor workforce for elective services over 7 days.
More doctors performing for example endoscopy or knee replacements etc over 7 days will pull doctors from the week.
Not one individual doctor.
Ie the government want to deliver this within the same pay envelope (no more investment in doctors' numbers)
Full support for the junior doctors here as well! I am also slightly in disbelief that the government are forcing this through given the level of public support for you.
Well done - as the sister and sister-in-law of junior doctors, I totally support you.
I fully support you all. I will never forget the dedication and compassion shown to me when I lost my dd. The doctors did all they could and more.
So thank you all, you deserve better than Jeremy Hunts ridiculous contract.
Full support here too
Sadly I fear one of he biggest battles in all this is the power the government seems to wield over the press. Getting the actual message across is proving hard.
Thanks for your post Rachel.
I'm also a fully supportive consultant.
The Tube drivers have just agreed to increase the hours of operation for the Tube ( night tube). For this they are all having bonuses, above inflation pay rise and training and employing hundreds more drivers. Yet for hospitals the government think they can get something (7day elective NHS) for nothing (no more pay, no more doctors).
Oh and a health secretary that questions our work ethic and professionalism. Last week I worked 16 extra hours unpaid, yesterday on my day off I worked 8 hours unpaid. If the government loses all our goodwill the NHS is not viable, but they seem to be deliberately doing this. Is it because they want the NHS to be unviable? Then services can be rescued (sold) to virgin etc.
Please please can we sort out emergency 7 day services, listen to the staff delivering the care and stop pushing your privatisation agenda Jeremy!
I watched a snippet on the news about a junior doctor... I could have cried for her, the hours she worked, the pressure to get it right, she collapsed in the end through dehydration..... What the hell?? We should be nurturing this talent, supporting these junior doctors and I for one support you. We need you to win this.
As someone who has spent a lot of time in A&E with an eldery parent recently, I fully support the action.
All workers, especially those with critical roles such as those in the NHS, should work reasonable hours and get paid accordlngly.
I saw the same piece as Kbear and it was desparate. The Dr didn't even have time to drink a glass of water.
Your duty as a doctor is to shut up whining and get on with your job.The NHS has paid a lot of money to train you
There is no shortage of bright kids wanting to train as doctors.It needs to be written into a student's training agreement right from the outset that they must pay back the NHS investment if they leave.
As a mother of 2 small children, one with epilepsy, I just want to say I fully support you all and thank you for all that you're doing in standing up for yourselves as I know that in doing so, you are bravely standing up for us all.
It's only free at the point if delivery. How do I claim my tax rebate? Last time I entered a hospital a&e dept the reception staff told me to stand and wait. I couldn't sit; I had a broken back. The triage nurse only bothered when I refused to leave the triage area.
Yep, really worth saving. Get back to work - the people in it have destroyed it, not politicians and no, I'm not grateful forvsub standard, lazy services.
Maydancer and BeaufortBelle - did you actually read Rachel's post? Try again; your ignorance of the issue is depressing.
Yes thank you and I disagree. The junior doctors will be in breach of contract to their employers and in breach of their moral duty. I paid for a baby and child life saving course when my dc were small. Now I pay for medical care because the NHS is so wanting and has been since my dc were born mote than twenty years ago. I don't think all hcps are angels and saints; some are shocking and they would be less shocking if they were reliant on bills being settled.
They're not in breach of contract; as members of a union they are protected by law and perfectly entitled to strike; their moral duty is to fight against the decimation of the NHS. The consultants are completely in support of them (I am one). Those who are fortunate enough to be able to afford private health care might not be so smug when they are involved in an emergency situation requiring urgent NHS input from an NHS which is failing because of mismanagement, haemorrhage of staff whose loyalty has been pushed to breaking point, and woefully inadequate funding.
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