Proud to stand with our striking Junior Doctors.

I know it’s Tuesday not Saturday! 

If you are new to my blog take a look at my About page here  

My last post was a while ago; gosh over 3 months!!  I wrote about Depression: On the Inside Looking Out and, if you’ve a mind to, you can read that post by clicking here   

This post is really for those in the UK so apologies to my readers outside the UK 

For those of you who have been confused about why the Junior Doctors are in dispute with the government take a look below…. The first one may seem light-hearted but really it is deadly serious; as you can see by the 2nd photo.

JUnior doctors strike explained


Backbone of the NHS


Today I met some of the Junior Doctors who are on a national all out 2 day strike, which included not covering emergencies for the first time. I met some of them at the entrance to my local Hospital, Hinchingbrooke,


and also in the town centre of Huntingdon which is nearby.  



It has been a day of all seasons; rain, cold wind, warm sun and hail but mostly very cold so I took with me disposable hand warmers to share out and bananas.

I wanted to show my support for them and to counter some of the untruths the UK’s right wing media have been circulating  to try to discredit them and their union; the British Medical Association (BMA). This has been in papers, on twitter and facebook. Arguably on TV too!

So what did I find?

People with a range of experience from 10 years as a Junior Doctor to those in their first year and everything in-between.  The more newly qualified ones have huge loan debts from their years of education and training (minimum 5 years at medical school) ranging from £18,000 ( lucky to have help from parents) to £63,000.. Yes £63,000!!! 

Some of the Universities they trained at, which includes my nearest Cambridge University, do not allow their student population to have part time jobs while they are studying. So unless you have very wealthy parents you have no choice but debt. 

Matt, who has been a Junior Doctor for 8 years and is a Geriatrician was not in that situation when he trained. He told me he had lots of part time jobs; from leafleting, to being a wine waiter and  even an undertakers assistant; all good training for a doctor!?  Matt and I discussed the problems faced by geriatric Health and Social Care services because of bed-blocking by elderly people who no-longer need to be in hospital, or may have never needed to be!  So called bed-blocking happens because of a shortage of long term residential or nursing home placements or a lack of availability of domiciliary carers for care at home. Funding has been drastically cut, by this Conservative government, to Councils who fund these services which are largely owned/run by the private sector.  The effective selling of some of our most vulnerable members of society to the private sector, for them to make profits from, was wrong, is wrong and will always be wrong in my eyes.

The irony of local authorities getting huge daily fines if they do not find care for people, to prevent bed-blocking, is not lost on me, as a Social Worker in an older peoples team, nor is it lost on the Junior Doctors.

To go back to the training of Junior Doctors. I have seen comments on facebook and twitter from those opposed to the Junior Doctors strike ( fueled by the likes of the Daily Mail and The Sun) saying “if they don’t want to work, let them pay back the costs of their training which we paid for”.  To them I say see the costs above and also remember that Junior Doctors have to attend mandatory training, seminars, courses etc and have to continue to take exams even after they have finished training; most of which they have to pay for themselves and this can cost thousands of pounds each year. In fact 2 of the doctors I spoke to had just been on a weekend course which cost them £280 each.

A reminder too that Junior Doctors start on a basic pay of just under £23,000 after at least FIVE years studying and training.

But in all the discussions I had the Junior Doctors kept returning to the same thing and that was their love of helping people and the safety of their patients. They did not volunteer the information about the money they earned or what they owed, I asked them about this. Their concern is highlighted in the photo at the top of this post. We now have a 5 day elective/7 day emergency NHS, Jeremy Hunt has said we must have a 7 day elective/7 day emergency NHS but it NOT prepared to fund this. He wants it on the cheap!  It is common sense that if you have more Junior Doctors on at the weekends you will either have to fund more staff or have less on during the week. I’m not good at maths but even I can see that! and

 “It’s not just more Junior Doctors that would be needed but nurse practitioners, specialist radiology technicians, sonographers, hospital pharmacists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, social workers, discharge coordinators, to name but a few. These are staff who work full time during the week but do not work weekends.”  The Governments “plan” for an elective 7 day NHS is an uncosted, unrealistic political fantasy! 

The Junior Doctors also expressed their concern about their colleagues who are leaving the NHS to get jobs in other countries and in the Private Sector where they feel they will be more valued. One senior member spoke to me of his concern about the lack of available Junior doctors already and several said they were close to leaving themselves as they felt there was no real future for them in the NHS now. They were angry that Jeremy Hunt was using outdated statistics, discredited information and also misleading the general public about increased risk of dying at weekends when in hospital. 

I found them to be very clued-up and not naive or idealistic as they have been painted. 

What did appear to me to be obvious, from those I spoke to, was that morale is very low indeed; they feel demoralised and undervalued.  

Is that what we want for some of our brightest, most dedicated and caring members of society. I certainly don’t and I was left feeling heartbroken for them that it had come to this. 

They also see that OUR precious NHS, that WE paid for with OUR National Insurance and Taxes, is gradually being sold off to the private sector or run by the private sector, something that all of us who work closely with the NHS can see.

The ones I spoke to didn’t want to strike and many talked about being apolitical, but they felt they were left with no alternative. It is clear that there is no trust between Jeremy Hunt and the BMA/Junior Doctors now. It seems obvious that his position is untenable and if he had any real care for patients he would resign. 

I’ll end with some facts about the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt and I will leave you to draw your own conclusions about what type of man he is.

1 – In 2005 he co-authored a policy pamphlet called Direct Democracy: An Agenda For A New Model Party which included statements supporting denationalising the NHS and suggested replacing it with “universal insurance”. 

2 – In 2009 he was investigated by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards and found to have been in breach of expenses rules and had to pay money back

3 – in 2010 he suggested that football hooliganism played a part in the deaths of 96 fans in the Hillsborough disaster. Completely untrue and he was forced to make a public apology.

4 – In 2012  Hunt reduced his tax bill by over £100,000 by receiving dividends from Hotcourses ( he’s part owner of the company)  in the form of property which was promptly leased back to the company.The dividend in specie ( or dividends in kind) was paid just before a 10% rise in dividend tax and Hunt was not required to pay stamp duty on the property.

5 – He is determined to impose a contract which is not only unsafe and sexist but does not recognise that a Saturday is not a normal working day, It shouldn’t be classed as such for anyone in my opinion. ( See 2nd photo above)  I have seen proposed Rotas which have some Junior Doctors working consecutive weekends ! 

This might help too ( I didn’t take this photo) 



Oh and by the way, people attending A & E were not placed at more risk, as Jeremy Hunt, the Daily Mail and The Sun kept saying. That was just scaremongering.  For example A&E in Hinchingbrooke was staffed by consultants. I went in to have a look and all was calm. There was a notice up to say there might be a wait of 1hr which is not at all unusual and this would not apply, of course, to life threatening emergencies which would be seen at once. I spoke to one of the receptionists and she told me it was business as usual and they were all just getting on with it.  I am sure this was repeated up and down the country.

Do your own research on this; there is a huge amount of information out there but choose wisely as there is a lot of misinformation too!

Your thoughts are very welcome as ever. 

Saturday Girl signing off.. 

If you’d like to, take a look at my photography blog Photomania by clicking  here 

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Depression – On the Inside Looking Out

Saturday 1280  –  23.01.2016

If you are new to my blog take a look at my About page here  

A couple of weeks ago I wrote my thoughts about my 2015  and mentioned that I had been suffering with depression. You can read that post here .

I am writing this as I hope it will further aid understanding for those who are lucky enough never to have experienced depression.

So what is depression like?  Well I can only speak for myself, of course, but I will illustrate it using this box; an art installation I saw in Amsterdam last year.

I’d like you to look at the box for a moment and think about what it might be like to be inside such a box.  



In the dark.




Separated from the outside world.

You look as though you’re in it but

actually you are unmoored from society.


There IS a doorway.

You can see it,

you can see what’s going on outside it,

It’s open, but it seems impossible to go through it.


Your energy is sapped,

motivation non-existent.

You’re forgetful,


unable to concentrate.

The unexpected puts you into a tailspin.


It’s not a choice.


Depression is often invisible.

Makes you want to be invisible. 

People who see it from the outside can only look in.


 and they might say –

“Cheer up” 

If you could you would. 

“Stop feeling sorry for yourself “ 

I refer you to my comment above ! 

“Can’t you pull yourself together? ”  

 Now it’s getting boring ^^^^^   

“It can’t be as bad as all that” 

 Oh yes it can.

“Try not to be so depressed”  

  I am trying and so are you !

“Believe me, I know how you feel. I was depressed once for a couple of days”  

 Really!  Sigh ! This one shows the speaker has never been really depressed.

“But you look alright” 

Of course I do. Depression doesn’t make you grow 2 heads!

“But you can’t be depressed you always seem so confident “ 

I have an “I’m confident” mask.  It’s quite thin.  I hide when it gets too thin.  

“What have you got to be depressed about? “ 

Nothing actually, but then depression doesn’t need a reason. 

‘You’re not the only one with problems’ 

Correct but not helpful because it  just adds guilt into the equation as does                               the one above and the one below ! 

“Shouldn’t you feel better by now?”  

 Goddammit I should ! I wish, I wish, I wish ! 

“At least you don’t have cancer”   

 Another sigh as this is the stupidest one ever. It’s not a competition!

I could give you loads more examples of what NOT to say to someone who gets regular visits from the “Black Dog” but I do recognise that often people are trying to help, they just don’t know how. This is particularly the case if they have never had depression themselves because they are used to emotions having a direct cause as in Cause > Effect, which is often not the case with depression.

So what IS depression? 

Eminent neuroscientist Professor Sapolsky, in his lecture on depression ( video link below) defines depression as

“a biochemical disorder, with a genetic component, and early experience influences, where someone cannot appreciate sunsets” And how sad and distressing this is, comparing it to how some people with serious life threatening illness who despite being scared of dying have found that they have a renewed interest in life, found the true meaning in friendships etc. He continues saying that “humans have this astonishing capacity to derive pleasure out of the most unlikely domains. What could possibly be worse than a disease who’s defining symptom is the inability to feel pleasure

A  couple of facts from the World Health Organisation 

  • Depression is a common mental disorder. Globally, an estimated 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression.
  • Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease.

and it’s on the rise, along with other mental illnesses.

So why so many in the world ? 

There are many, complex reasons, which I am not going to explore here.  I’m not a scientist but I can’t help feeling that, certainly in the developed world, the more technology reaches into our lives and takes it over ( she says typing on her computer and posting on the internet! ) the further away we get from our “animal” existence and our connection with nature.  The greedier we get for “things” also takes us further away.  

The world moves too fast and our ability to evolve is much, much slower causing turmoil as we try, in vain, to keep up. Stress and depression seem to be linked as it is widely believed that chronic stress can cause chemical imbalance in the brains of susceptible people.

The saying  “Stop the World I want to get off”  about sums it up!

So to step back to the beginning what is helpful in interactions with someone who is depressed, or what would I find helpful I should say?

I would say the key is empathy, patience and being a compassionate listener; you cannot cure someone’s depression but listening really helps.

Ask how you can best support them?  Tell them you may not understand how they feel but they are important to you and you want to help.  Tell them they deserve help. Don’t be judgmental, tell them you know it’s not their fault.

Give them a hug, if you know they normally like them, I do but not everyone does. Encourage them to go out with you for a walk, to the cinema, swimming or out for dinner; don’t force, encourage.  Text them just to let them know you are thinking about them.

There are many other things and I have included a couple of links below for further reading 

Some reading :-

Eight things you SHOULD say to someone with depression

and viewing :-

Oh and by the way, I am feeling a lot better; this week anyway   :o) 

Your thoughts are very welcome as ever. 

Saturday Girl signing off.. 

Take a look at my photography blog Photomania ; in particular the post Photos and Poetry 11 – The Magic Box  which features the same box.