Today I have a guest post by Lalitha Mayuranathan, a junior doctor who specialises in Obstetrics and Gynaecology. She explains why she joined 20,000 other junior doctors who marched through London last Saturday to protest against the new junior doctor contract that is due to be enforced in August 2016.
Photo copyright: famveldman / 123RF Stock Photo
After endless sleepless nights, I feel compelled to speak to everyone and anyone who will listen, but mostly this is for the non-doctors out there. I marched through London with approx. 20,000 other doctors in protest of the new Junior Doctor Contract due to be enforced in August 2016.
There are many aspects to this contract, but essentially it will cut our pay by up to 30% and the current safety limits on the hours we work will be removed. To put this in context, I will use me as an example.
I spent 7 years at university (with the loans to show for it). I have worked as a doctor for over 6 years. I have a minimum of 4 years before I become a consultant (and am no longer classed as a ‘junior doctor’). With maternity leave and part-time training, it will be another 8-9 years before I am a consultant. I work in Obstetrics & Gynaecology which is an emergency surgical specialty. We are the front-line. We absolutely already work a 24/7, 365 days/year rota. And we will be among those who are hardest hit by these changes precisely because we already work around the clock.
My basic salary is £34,000. Because of the endless nights and weekend shifts I work, I earn an additional 50% on this salary (taking it to £51,000). These are my responsibilities:
- I run the labour ward.
- I perform any emergency procedures or surgeries needed to deliver or keep a labouring woman and her baby safe.
- I will take a woman who is haemorrhaging from miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy to theatre. I do this around the clock. In the middle of the night, there is not a single other doctor in the hospital that has the training to perform these, not infrequently, lifesaving procedures. The weight of responsibility is huge.
- In daytime hours I work in antenatal, gynaecology, oncology, fertility and urogynae clinics. I work in gynaecology theatres.
- I perform ultrasound scans on pregnant women.
- I support women and their partners through some of the darkest and most beautiful moments of their life.
- I am challenged intellectually, emotionally, physically, ethically and spiritually every single day.
It is the most amazing and must be one of the hardest jobs in the world. I love my job; it is a vocation and I give body and soul to it. And I am still in training. This means I spend thousands of pounds to sit exams and attend courses. I study when I’m not working. I pay for this training from the salary stated above. To improve my training, I am required to work in different hospitals every year. In the 6 years I have been a doctor I have moved house 6 times and worked in 8 different hospitals. I will continue to do this and incur the financial and personal costs of moving my life around for the next 5-9 years. Because it will make me a better doctor.
The Tory government think I am worth £34,000/year. Full stop. I do not think I am worth that. Neither do my colleagues. We are hugely demoralised, apoplectic with rage and utterly broken-hearted. We give so much of ourselves; we internalise our patients’ emotional pain; we wake up every day with a very simple goal of helping people. There is no profit margin. And we are totally devalued.
The General Medical Council receive ~25 applications/day from UK doctors wishing to work abroad. When the new contracts were announced they received 1,600 applications in the first 3 days. We are leaving in our 1000s. We are British doctors. Our qualifications are amongst the most highly regarded medically in the world. I have worked as a doctor in developing and developed countries. The NHS is second to none. The standard of healthcare delivered and the accessibility to all sectors of society is phenomenal. And it is about to crumble. Those of us who remain will fight this every step of the way. But if we lose this fight we will leave too. Because working under these conditions is simple not an option.
My specialty has a 20-25% shortage of doctors already. This will become much, much worse. We will be expected to plug the gaps as well as work extra hours for less pay. We will be beyond the point of exhaustion and it will be unsafe. And if we can’t or won’t, potentially the majority of the healthcare will be delivered by temporary, foreign-trained locum doctors. There is no doubt in my mind that people will die as a result of these changes. Avoidable deaths. These people could be my loved ones or yours.
This may sound melodramatic. It isn’t. The NHS is always ‘in crisis’. But it really is this time. And you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. And that is why I ask the general public to support our fight and stand by our side. It is for all of us and the greatest British institution there ever was.
There will be industrial action. We will strike and there may be ensuing chaos. But if we fail, the NHS will fall. It will be privatised. We will leave with our broken-hearts, 1000s of British citizens forced out of their own country by the Tories. But what we will leave behind is a sinking ship where the most vulnerable will drown.
This post originally appeared on Facebook and has been reproduced here with Dr Mayuranathan’s permission. Please share the status and sign the petition to help save our NHS.
The DDRB have proposed to remove banding of junior doctors pay, increase their hours and only pay reduced enhanced rates on Sundays and between 10 pm and 7am each day.This is an atrocious proposition that puts the safety of patients at risk as well as doctors. IT MUST BE OPPOSED.