My sister is a junior doctor. I won’t profess to know much about her work – for one thing she legally can’t tell me much because of those pesky privacy laws governments also seems to want to get rid of, for another thing I am about as science minded as your average pet rabbit. Despite my mother being a biologist, the science genes passed me by. I do know that she worked very, very hard to get where she is. She went to university the same year I went to college and from day one she worked hard to make sure she succeeded. This meant that she didn’t always get to have the traditional student experience – a certain amount of partying and drinking was missed in favour of studying. As she got further into the years this went on to mean less and less visits home, studying on christmas day, being so busy I didn’t even get to visit her for a whole year. She did six years in total, taking an extra year to get a second degree to improve her knowledge and help her become a better doctor (don’t ask me what she did though, I honestly have no idea, which is shameful).
After graduation it didn’t let up. She went to different hospitals and doctors surgeries doing different placements, she worked long hours and she of course did the dreaded night shifts, weekend shifts and on call rotas. She had difficult times, I’m sure, maybe even times she wasn’t sure she wanted to carry on but I never saw that. She has always protected me, and I suspect will always, from a lot of things. Maybe she enjoys the perfect big sister image, maybe she just doesn’t want to worry me, who knows. Well, her probably. But still, she has survive more than four years of being a junior doctor and has several more to go and somehow during the ridiculous workload she has, which found time to fall in love, get married, support me through several medical crises and somehow managed to have some of that fun stuff they’re always talking about. I really don’t know how she manages – it took my four days off work to get round to cleaning the bloody bathroom!
And her reward for all that hard work and all the lives shes saved and all the dangerous and disturbing situations she’s had to face? A pay cut. For those who don’t know our lovely conservative government has decided they want to change the way antisocial working hours are paid by basically extending normal working hours to cover some very abnormal hours. From now on hours until 10pm every day except Sunday will be considered normal, as well as some other adjustments, which basically means junior doctors are facing a pay cut of up to 30%. They will also be penalised for taking time out to complete research and do things like raise babies. And when I say decided what happened was this: the government said they want to debate it, the doctors said this is shit we don’t like it, the government refused to even discuss it and negotiations fell on their face. Sadly not directly on Jeremy Hunt’s smug bastard face, that would at least have been fun to watch. Does this seem fair to you? There is no denying that doctors get paid a larger amount of money than many professions but that is because it is bloody hard work! They work long hours and work bloody hard while they’re there, often going large amounts of the day without a drink let alone food. Personally, I think that is not the reward my sister deserves for all her hard work and neither do her colleagues.
The other point being talked about is the ‘Monday to Friday culture’ of the NHS. Frankly, I think it says a lot about the people who think that’s how the NHS works and how bloody lucky they are. Clearly these people have never had to be rushed to hospital in the middle of the night or spend a weekend on a surgical ward. Woop-di-doo for them. This is something I have experienced. I’ve been to A&E on a busy weekend night and been seen as quickly and treated as well as when I attended on a Monday afternoon. My usual experience is: see a nurse, wait for while, see a doctor, wait while they call neurosurgery, send me for an MRI, wait for results, send me off with some painkillers. It doesn’t mater what time or day it is this always takes about the same length of time. On top of that I have been admitted to hospital on a Sunday night after an assessment from a properly qualified doctor, I have been at a GP’s surgery until nearly two hours after closing while the doctor phoned the hospital to find out the best way to handle my case and I have been in an operating theatre for a procedure on boxing day. The NHS is functioning 24/7 for those of who need it, thank you very much Mr
Cutting pay and systematically demoralising doctors and other valued NHS workers will not improve their work. This is obvious. It is basic psychology that any of the good people who have been through medical school would be able to explain to you. In any job, an employee who is rewarded well for their time, praised for their efforts and spoken to nicely will perform better than one treated…well, the opposite. And we certainly can’t keep a functional 24/7 NHS if no doctor wants to work a weekend because they literally can’t afford to. People don’t become doctors because they want an easy life and lots of money, they do it because they want to help. But if the public turn against them then they will not want to work. It’s so simple, I would have thought even the Tories could have grasped it.
As someone who has seen both sides of the system – witnessed the effect the long hours and hard work on the doctors and the patients – I urge you to show support for getting our doctors a fairer deal. Spoonies need a good NHS system more than anyone else, do you think you could afford all your treatment if you had to go private? All those prescriptions, all those specialists, all those operations? I know I wouldn’t. Sign the petitions, tweet about it, facebook about it, share this blog post, copy and paste it if you must but the more we talk about the more likely we are to succeed.
Thank you so much for reading! I also wrote a blog about the plight of our nurses, if you want to hate Jeremy
Cunt Hunt even more.