A few words from a striking Junior Doctor

Action outside Musgrove Park hospital in Taunton
Action outside Musgrove Park hospital in Taunton

Miss Sophie Welchman is a Senior Vascular Registrar, who Qualified in 2005 and from Somerset  and who joined the strike this week. Miss Welchman gave us permission to use the article here which was published on a public forum . Sophie has no party political affiliation and strongly believes that the NHS should be run as a cross party organisation.

Sophie writes:

I have been quiet about the Doctors contract issue for the last month to avoid issue fatigue but today is one of the saddest days in my career so here is my take on the problem..

The NHS is crippled at the moment due to chronic underfunding and under developed social care. Hospitals are under unprecedented pressure. THESE PROBLEMS ARE NOT DUE TO JUNIOR DOCTORS WORKING PATTERNS OR BEING OVERPAID. Hunt is spinning the yarn that the NHS problems will be solved by an SHO running an endoscopy list on a saturday evening… we can all see that is tosh. The message is mixed and I implore you to ask why the government is bothering to do this if the party line about a ‘neutral pay envelope is true’…. Do you believe 53000 doctors or Jeremy Hunt?

Doctors are NOT striking for a pay rise (and please remember that we have had a 18% real terms pay cut over the last decade without complaint).

Doctors already work in a 7 day emergency NHS (trials of offering GP appts on a sunday showed that patients just dont want it).

The ‘weekend effect’ data has been misinterpreted and there is no evidence that it is related to doctor’s working arrangements.

The NHS is amazing but we know it could be better, but making doctors work more hours for less pay is NOT how to improve it (we need everyone else in the team to be there to provide excellent multi-disciplinary care). Doctors are leaving the country hand over fist in search of better working conditions who can’t bear the stress of the system any longer). Medical student applications dropped by 11% in the last year (who can blame these bright young people from looking at people like me and choosing other careers? We need the best a-level students to become doctors to maintain quality) and im sure that nursing schools will see the same effect. Demoralising staff is the quickest way to break the NHS.

On a personal level I can tell you that I could not have worked harder in the last 11 years- I and my family have made extraordinary sacrifices for my job and have done so without complaint as I know that is what it takes to be a good surgeon. That said, enough is enough. Cutting my pay so that I can’t pay my mortgage (on a small house that I can’t even live in because I have had to move, yet again, for job), re-branding Saturdays and evenings as normal hours and increasing my weekend working to EVERY OTHER weekend makes family life untenable. You find me childcare that covers that working pattern and then pay me enough to fund it and I still won’t do it because I can not work any harder and provide a SAFE service. I will not tolerate the media spin machine describes me as lazy and over paid because it is frankly not true. I, and all of my colleagues, are hard working, dedicated, highly skilled and utterly undervalued.

I have seen other systems and can confidently say that the I do not want to work in a ‘pay for service’ system. I love and am proud that the homeless man gets the same quality of care from me as the millionaire. It is very clear that the underlying agenda for his government is to privatise the NHS (as suggested by the appointment of a man who wrote a book about private healthcare as Health sec…). They have started a multi-pronged attack- nursing bursaries, hospital efficiency saving goals, doctors contracts etc etc etc

For all of these reasons, with a heavy heart, I will be striking today. I know that it is my duty to protect patients but to that I say that is the exact reason why I MUST strike. Patients with emergencies will be looked after as normal today. Patients with non-emergent issues will be inconvenienced and for that I am sorry. But not as sorry as I would be not to have taken action to highlight the impending demise of the NHS.

If you want an NHS in 5 years time then write to your MPs, support nursing bursaries, support today’s strike.