E+E Column: Not Safe, Not Fair

The ongoing dispute between the junior doctors in England and the government (or at least Mr Hunt) was front page news for much of the last month but the media, in it’s increasingly short attention span, has stopped giving it so much coverage recently. One could be forgiven for thinking that it has either been resolved or that the junior doctors (that is, all doctors below consultant level) have resigned themselves to unfair contracts, forced upon them despite their protestations. Neither is true. The face of the mainstream media has merely been turned to other matters. The battle is still ongoing and I wanted to take the opportunity to add my voice to the fray, to publicly show my solidarity for the hard working, dedicated doctors of our NHS. I’d also like to address some of the misconceptions being propagated by some of our less than classy national papers.

First and foremost, this is not about money. Some coverage has suggested that the proposed contracts offer a pay increase and therefore, by rejecting them, doctors are just greedy and after more money. This is not true. Due to the proposed restructuring of what are standard hours and what is on call or out of hours, doctors will end up being significantly worse off each year. I think anyone in their right mind would object to a new contract that saw their pay being cut, especially in such a mentally and physically demanding profession.

Secondly, a seven day NHS already exists despite the insistent cries from Mr Hunt that it doesn’t. If one of my kids broke a bone on a Sunday and I took the to A+E, guess what? They’d be cared for! When I had to transfer to hospital after the birth of Elijah on a Saturday morning, guess what? An ambulance turned up! And when I got to the hospital…it was pretty busy with staff and patients, despite the fact that it was a weekend. There is a massive difference between access to routine and emergency care and I for one, think that we should cut doctors a bit of slack. Yes, it is vital to have emergency care available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. But routine care? It is not unreasonable to suggest that we limit it to Monday-Friday (although from what I gather some aspects have already leaked outside of those boundaries).

Our doctors are already exhausted and sacrificing precious time with family and friends. What more does the government want from them? It doesn’t seem physically possible for them to work the hours that the new contracts are proposing without a serious strain on their physical and mental health. At the end of the day they are just people. People who have chosen a most noble and challenging profession but people who still deserve a personal life outside of work, that deserve the opportunity to rest and whose patients deserve to be treated by doctors who aren’t so overtired they could make fatal mistakes. So, on the 26th and 27th April I urge you to join those protesting outside the RD+ E if possible to show your support and join the thousands of voices telling the government that what they are asking of our junior doctors is Not Safe, Not Fair.


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