OK, so today is the day that junior doctors, all over the country, are on strike for better terms and conditions and I support them all the way.
The TV news and social media are full of reports and pictures from the picket lines. Doctors with stethoscopes around their necks and placards, not syringes, in their hands. Doctors, the beating heart of our beloved National Health Service, who are not where they should be. Doctors, who are not tending their patients in crowded wards. Doctors who are not assisting surgeons with routine surgery in the operating theatre. Doctors who are not examining frightened people attending clinics and consultations which could save their lives. No, instead these consummate professionals are standing outside their hospitals, in the cold and wind and rain, striking over proposed changes to their terms and conditions and I support them all the way.
I am not a medic or a union expert or a politician in the Department of Health but, like most people in this country, just an ordinary person who has used the NHS and who has seen these junior doctors at work. I don’t pretend to understand exactly what it’s all about, far from it, but I don’t think I am unusual in this.
As far as I can see what has happened is that the government, in it’s infinite wisdom, wants to make changes to pay and working hours for junior doctors and that this will not benefit anyone except the government. Junior doctors are going to be working more unsocial hours and will be receiving less pay for doing it. The government are saying that they are doing this so that the NHS is a seven day per week service and so patients get something better that they have at the moment. But I, for one, can’t see what they are talking about. The NHS as far as I am concerned is already a seven day service. Hospitals aren’t a 9-5 thing, they don’t close at the weekend, they are open all the time. Sure, some of the clinics and specialist services are closed at weekends but the core of the NHS, the 24 hour care service we all know and rely upon is open. Accident and Emergency never closes. Patients aren’t sent home at the weekend and told to return to the ward on Monday. Desperately ill people are still taken in, cared for and helped to heal.
As someone who spent several weeks in hospital last year, with a serious condition, I have seen these junior doctors at work, first hand. I have seen them doing ward rounds before breakfast. I have seen them administering analgesic relief when a patient is crying in pain at 2 or 3 in the morning. I have been taken to theatre for surgery both early and late in the day and treated with compassion and concern every step of the way. I have seen junior doctors, exhausted after being on call for 24 hours working with professionalism and humanity for all at every bedside. Yes, I have seen these junior doctors at work and I have the utmost respect for them all.
Sure, there have been times when I would have liked to have been able to have a clinic appointment in the evening or at the weekend so my week was not disrupted but things can’t always be done to my convenience. Consultants and their juniors deserve a home life just as much as everyone else. What I need is a doctor who is not too tired to work. What I need is a service that is responsive and professional. What I need is and NHS that free at the point of use. What I want is doctor who is able have some time to themselves to unwind and relax, not someone who is too exhausted to work. What I want is a doctor who can spend some time at home with their family, just the same as everyone else. What I want are for doctors to receive a salary which recognises and reflects their dedication and skills. What I want are for doctors to know how much we, their patients, respect them, their vocation and their dedication.
So today is the day the junior doctors all over the country are on strike for better terms and conditions and I support them all the way.