Stories from the Bedside – A tumultuous beginning to fifth year

[box style=”rounded” border=”full”]Jun Lao, Mess Editor, back with a vengeance and raging against the (Government) machine.[/box]

Medical students and doctors gathered to protest the DDRB contract reform proposals at the venue for the (cancelled) NHS Employers meeting

Medical students and doctors gathered to protest the DDRB contract reform proposals outside the venue for the (cancelled) NHS Employers meeting

With the finish line just beginning to peek over the horizon, I find myself in an increasingly contemplative mood. Fifth year, my penultimate year at medical school, brings with it new responsibilities and expectations. It is becoming difficult to ignore the fact that in just under two years, providing all goes well, I will be a fully fledged doctor striding the wards; a professional with real responsibility, expertise and influence. I will no longer be a student but a member of the NHS workforce (I won’t be joining the exodus abroad but more on that later). And that is an utterly bewildering prospect.

Rumours are gathering that Candy Crush Saga will be included in the next year's FRCA examinations (I am 100% joking if any future employers are reading this - please give me a job)

Rumours are gathering that Candy Crush Saga will be included in the next year’s FRCA examinations (I am 100% joking if any future employers are reading this – please give me a job)

Before the furore over the proposed DDRB contract reforms had truly kicked off, ruminations over our future as doctors had already begun in earnest amongst the year. An afternoon of foundation school application and careers talks had sharpened our focus and forced us to truly look ahead past our university years – for the first time for many. I’ve never been a fan of planning or committing to anything far ahead of time – besides med school I suppose – unless absolutely necessary and yet there I was sitting in an Anaesthetics talk wondering how my 30 year old self would cope sitting in a theatre with orthopaedic surgeons’ incessant banter and obsession with their tools. Or perhaps I wouldn’t notice, with my attention instead intently focused on my smartphone and a compelling game of Candy Crush with the occasional glances at the obs screen and twiddling of knobs. Crude stereotyping of specialities aside, these talks also led me to reflect on my current work-life balance and how drastically that would be changing in the near future if I were to continue down my current career path – especially in light of the recent DDRB proposed reforms. Was I truly prepared to sacrifice my evenings and weekends for the foreseeable future for little to no reward or recognition from my employers? Was I prepared to live a life devoid of stability as I chased speciality jobs around the country on a salary quite possibly insufficient to even afford a mortgage? Did I even want to be a doctor anymore? These are sadly the kind of questions many medical students and junior doctors across the country are seeking answers to. Many are now looking towards other careers and other countries in order to regain some semblance of control over their lives and for that I can hardly blame them. But I have my answers – I’m not leaving, I’m not giving up and I hope you won’t either. These regressive reforms are simply proposals at this stage. We can and must prevent these persistent and underhanded attempts to undermine the NHS by staying put and fighting. Stay and fight for the patients that need hard working junior doctors. Stay and fight for your fellow health professionals who will be targeted next. Stay and fight for the NHS, the greatest institution Britain has ever known.


Studies have shown homeopathic treatment to be just as effective as placebos – get yours today!

In a way the news of these reforms was fortuitously timed. Had it been later in the year, around revision time where pangs of regret and panic are most frequent, perhaps I too would be joining the exodus abroad or into other professions. But luckily for me it coincided with my re-introduction to clinical medicine in the form of GUM and HIV clinics – as if fate had some inkling that I needed a kick up the arse. It has been a humbling two weeks during which I have been reminded of the unique relationship doctors share with their patients, of the burden of responsibility that all health professionals have and all the good that I would be able to do as a doctor working for the NHS. If this all sounds ripped from a personal statement then that is deliberate. Having had a read through of my personal statement again recently, I found it difficult to reconcile the enthusiasm and passion I displayed back then to my current comparatively listless state and I can only imagine how far motivation levels amongst junior doctors must have dipped over the past few weeks. Luckily for me, my salvation came in the form of these clinics. There was the strange but memorable spectacle of watching a HIV doctor’s exasperated yet earnest attempts to convince a professional homeopath to take anti-retroviral medication before undergoing a major operation – he refused obviously. Then there was the amusing experience watching a GUM doctor gamely dealing with an incredibly difficult, dismissive and obnoxious patient who volunteered little information whilst demanding treatment instantly. When asked for my opinion of the patient I offered a few vague allusions to their rude behaviour only to be trumped by the doctor’s much more succinct (and far more accurate) assessment of the patient which I won’t repeat – use your imagination. But it was my encounter with a homeless man with such an upsetting multitude of problems resulting from his desperate circumstances which served as the truest reminder of the importance of both the job and of preserving the NHS. This was the sort of patient who would likely not have presented to healthcare services at all had it not been for the core ethos underpinning the NHS of caring for all regardless of status or circumstances – obnoxious patients and homeless alike. The kindness and diligence the GUM doctor displayed in his dealings with the patient was a mere snapshot of the incredible and thankless work doctors around the country do all year round. Grade A personal statement fodder right here.

Whilst Stories from the Bedside will be a recurring feature focusing on amusing anecdotes and cases from clinics throughout the year, it was rather difficult to focus purely on anecdotes in the context of the drama currently unfolding with regards to the DDRB proposals. The growing movement against these regressive proposals was electrified by the recent Westminster protest where thousands of junior doctors, medical students and health professionals united in a glorious display of solidarity to mount a defence of the NHS and the population it serves. If you too were inspired by these protests and want to add your voice to the movement supporting the junior doctors and helping to preserve the NHS there are links below – some for information as to what exactly these reforms entail and others on what action you can take. Please join, protest, sign and do whatever you can to raise awareness of the danger these reforms pose to the NHS and patient safety. For my part, I will continue with a renewed optimism and fire and you will be seeing periodic updates on my fifth year of medical school amongst other articles from the Mess. Keep your eyes peeled.


BMA key points of reforms –

BMA in depth summary of reforms –

Full DDRB report –

Junior Doctor campaign group –

Junior doctors protest at Parliament Square –

Petition to debate contracts in Parliament –

Quote of the week

“People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.” – V, V for Vendetta

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