A junior doctor, who wishes to remain anonymous, explains why they took industrial action
The mood among us was one of excitement and apprehension, because it was the first time that most of us had been involved in a strike action – something we never thought would happen to us in our medical careers.
I felt a bit sad that, six months after starting work, having studied at university for seven years, I was already involved in an industrial dispute. Like many doctors, I joined the profession in order to help people, and it was an extremely difficult decision to strike.
A junior doctor is any doctor who is not a consultant, in practice this is usually any doctor in their 20s or 30s, which means most who work on the wards of the hospital, and the ones who most often come into regular contact with patients.
Many junior doctors came to the picket, but some stayed away because they felt so uncomfortable about picketing in front of their workplace. A large proportion still had to work because those on emergency services such as accident and emergency, intensive care, obstetrics and gynaecology, acute medicine and surgery, were not striking.
The proposition for industrial action was launched by the British Medical Association (BMA) in response to a proposal by the government to introduce a new junior doctor contract which will radically change normal working hours.
The overall aim of the government is to change the NHS from a fully functional five-day service, to a seven-day service, improving patient welfare. However, doctors are concerned because it proposes to do this without providing any increase in resources or staff to make up those extra two days per week – it is described as a “cost neutral” change.
Therefore, the proposed new contract will require junior doctors to work much longer hours, without any increase in pay.
This is not simply a question of a doctor’s work/life balance; the BMA consider this will not improve patient care simply because doctors will be increasingly tired. Which could of course be dangerous for patients.
Furthermore, the emergency services already do provide seven-day care, because most of the services that do not already take place at weekends are provided by consultants rather than junior doctors. The idea of introducing a seven-day service by changing the contracts of junior doctors is a flawed plan anyway.
Unfortunately, many doctors believe these plans are a veiled attempt by the government to set in motion the privatisation of the NHS, which we believe is not what the public want. Therefore, we hope that all Londoners who support a publicly funded NHS will stand with junior doctors, and all NHS staff, to challenge the government on these proposals.
A second walk-out by junior doctors is due to take place on 10th February. For information on how this may affect services at Whipps Cross University Hospital in Leytonstone: