Junior Doctor Contracts: A medic’s view

I’ve always wanted to be a doctor, and there’s no doubt that my first few days as an anxious F1 will be incredible and tough. But now that Jeremy Hunt has imposed the new contract, the future is shrouded in uncertainty; and that’s terrifying. 
Hunt is adamant about delivering his “seven day NHS” and that’s fine if you can afford it, but we all know the NHS is stretched as it is. These plans will only push our treasured NHS to the brink.

Junior doctors are being bullied. The DoH want to make Saturdays a normal part of the working week, but they are not recruiting more doctors. Even with a new working limit of 72 hours a week, what is stopping hospital trusts forcing us to work longer hours when they are understaffed? They need to optimise patient care and that is not possible with a shortage of staff. 
Sadly, that results in overworking overtired doctors. That means mistakes. That means compromised patient care and safety. That is why we went on strike, with major support from the public.

Mr Hunt claims to give us an 11% pay rise – it’s really a 30% pay cut. He’s increasing basic pay, but cutting overtime pay. Most junior doctors do not follow their schedule, often working extra unpaid hours to be with a vulnerable patient. By doing this, Hunt is undervaluing our profession; he’s trying to make us cheaper. Our training is such that we spend £9000 per annum for 5 years, pay for our own subscriptions and professional exams during our junior doctor training before we become consultants, accumulating thousands of pounds worth of debt. We get little time to ourselves, and many junior doctors work overtime or during unsociable hours to pay this back.

No one likes to have their salary cut, but we can live with that if we have faith in our employer and profession. To work for a universal healthcare system that is free at the point of delivery, is every UK doctors dream. However that faith is depleting. We only have one employer, and it intends to stretch junior doctors over 7 days. That can only be detrimental to patient care. Patients are the reason we joined the profession, why many junior doctors work after their shift is over, patients are the ones who motivate us everyday.

Ultimately I think this is part of a scheme to dismantle our beloved NHS – to gradually privatise it. We can see this already happening. The problem is that once you privatise healthcare, it becomes a profit making business. And that undermines the very core of the NHS. They’ll only take your case if it’s cheap and quick to deal with. 
It is not just the junior doctors taking the brunt of this. Dentists and consultants have new contracts in the pipeline, nursing students have had their bursaries removed, GPs receive little support. If you want to privatise, at least tell us. Don’t be sly about it.

Sophie Talib


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