How Could a Doctor Think of Going on Strike?

Best job in the world, thinks Geoff, at least when he’s not inspecting verrucas.

While Geoff is a fictional GP, he’s uncannily similar to a lot of real family doctors.

Right now he’s unwrapping a cheese sandwich and feeling grateful he’s not a hospital doctor facing life or death decisions.

Because any minute now BMA ballots will be plopping through their doors, asking whether they’d take industrial action.

Litmann type stethoscope

He’s not fond of strikes and instinct tells him doctors shouldn’t have them. If striking makes a perceptible impact, people get hurt. If it makes no impact, the strikers look stupid. Lose-lose, in Geoff’s book.

But what else can junior hospital doctors do?

By anyone’s clock, 7am to 10pm six days a week can’t be a standard working day. Geoff’s not sure how it squares with the European Working Time Directive which requires 11 hours rest a day. About 10 years ago the EWTD began to include junior hospital doctors. He recalls that opt-outs have to be voluntary. Is Jeremy Hunt aware of this?

It’s not about the money, say junior doctors. They’re not “trainee doctors”, by the way, despite the way the press describes them. They’re fully qualified members of the medical profession, ready, willing and (most of all) able, to resuscitate the dying or resect metres of gangrenous bowel as appropriate. 

Jeremy Hunt doesn’t look a bad guy.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt

He’s just wrong, thinks Geoff. That mortality paper in the BMJ has a lot to answer for. It showed that being admitted to hospital at weekends was linked with a significantly increased risk of in-hospital death. Lots more of them would be acutely ill, so that makes sense.

The same paper also showed that being in hospital at the weekend was associated with a reduced risk of death!

So where the fuck did people get the idea that having more doctors on duty would prevent those excess deaths? Geoff hurls his sandwich wrapper into the bin.

Being self-interested, as everyone is at heart, Geoff worries that the proposed new contract for junior hospital doctors will affect general practice too. It would imposes a drop of 40% in GP trainee salaries. Those ARE trainees, by the way. They’re doctors training to be GPs, and there aren’t enough of them as it is.

More importantly, the new contract jeopardizes patient safety because it removes the safeguards which protect doctors from working dangerously long hours.

scalpel

No wonder many people believe the proposed contract puts the future of the NHS at risk.

Does all that make striking a good game plan? Doctors last took action in 1975, well before his time as he’s only been qualified 15 years.  

Recently a whopping 95% who took part in a Guardian poll answered yes to the question: Should junior doctors strike over the government’s proposed contract?  He thinks there were 28,000 or so people polled, nearly as many people as there are junior hospital doctors. But obviously he can’t find the article now, what with the winter care plan, new advice about FGM, and an avalanche of other vital information.

It’s the baby clinic this afternoon in Geoff’s practice. Britain has one of the best immunisation programmes in the world, he likes to think. Geoff heads into the waiting room, beams at the parents, and wonders how long the NHS has left to live.

tombstone

***

You may also like:

GMC advice for doctors in England considering industrial action.

The doctors’ 1975 industrial action.

 

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2 thoughts on “How Could a Doctor Think of Going on Strike?

  1. Good piece and it’s shame they get called ‘junior doctors’ when the only next step is consultant! For how much longer must this misleading misnomer continue?! (Oh, and wasn’t there some kind of contract along the way which did reduce hours? Like after the 1975 strike?)

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