Editor’s Letter 2015 No. 12

[box] Our Editor-in-Chief airs his view on the new junior contract [/box]

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They say that the hardest thing about writing is putting pen to paper in the first place. Of course, in this day and age, it is the application of sausage finger to filthy keyboard – nonetheless the point stands. This week though I find it easy to begin this letter as there is a sole topic cascading out of every medic’s mouth from Land’s End to John O’ Groats.

The new junior doctor contract is the talk of the town; we lowly medical students live in fear of what is come, the juniors on the wards live in fear of what they’ve subjected themselves to, and even the consultants live in fear for it will soon be their turn to feel the undue wrath of Hunt’s brutal and bureaucratic battle axe.

What is most apparent is that, despite the BMA’s justified isolationist approach, medics of all kinds wish to engage in the process as actively as possible. As I write this, petitions are being handed around like Haribo at a kids party, calling for a rethink in their most moderate form and a strike in their most extreme. Medical students are mobilising and one such group, Medical Students Against the Junior Doctor Contract, are planning a peaceful demonstration on Monday 28th September outside an NHS England meeting in London regarding the contract negotiations. More information on how to get involved and attend can be found here.

It hurts me to know that the dream that we all had as teenagers is nothing of the sort in reality. The paradoxical nature of this new contract – let’s scare more juniors away in the midst of a shortage – is what troubles me most. I already know enough medical students eager to run off with their degree certificates to the shelter of The City, there to make money, comfortable money, without ever setting stethoscope to chest as a doctor on the ward. There will always be those that have a change of heart in medical school — and that is okay — but it is happening with ever increasing frequency. With the advent of this new contract I cannot blame them for wanting away. The grass is always greener on the other side, especially when the land on this side is about as fertile as a supermarket car park.

It seems rich that a system which allows cabinet members to vote on their own 10% pay rise, almost unanimously I may add, may permit these same people to inflict without fair discussion a potential 30% pay cut on highly skilled, impeccably trained professionals. Both wages are paid for by the taxpayer and I find myself wondering recently how a public vote on who deserved a pay rise more, the junior doctors or the MPs, would turn out.

Further to the shafting of the junior doctors, the GP trainees are hit by a tonne of bricks. The cutting of their supplement, an initiative to attract doctors to an already maligned and undersubscribed profession, is an abomination. How can it make sense to make the GP pathway even less attractive to medical students when the nation is crying out for new trainees? It leads me to question how well reasoned the recommendations made by the DDRB are and how much the reality of the situation was acknowledged rather than the financial aims set out in a mahogany embalmed office at Westminster.

It isn’t all doom and gloom though, here in Editorland. I still believe that medicine is a career worth pursuing. A high wage is nice, yes, but the altruistic fire that burns deep in the furnaces of our hearts will always be aglow and a medical career offers the fuel to fan the flames. It is a privilege to be part of a machine that provides healthcare universally to whoever may need it. As the job gets less and less worthwhile however, I cannot blame those who leave the profession or leave the country entirely. These are not kind times.

Rob

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