I know it’s Tuesday not Saturday!
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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.
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