THE BLOG

The Junior Doctors' Fight to Protect Our NHS Has Been Powered by People

20/04/2016 16:01

People from all walks of life and industries have come together to lend their voice to this once in a generation campaign

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According to my mother, I have always wanted to be a doctor.  Apparently my dolls used to go through major trauma with surgery being performed regularly, her red nail varnish being sacrificed in my quest for saving my doll's life.  I have now been a junior doctor for ten years, I love my job and have been fortunate enough to work with amazing people doing amazing things on a daily basis.  Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Health is going to change that.  The proposed contract that is to be imposed in August will mean stretching an already strained service to breaking point. We, the Junior Doctors of your NHS, will not be able to provide safe care.  One of my first jobs as a doctor before the current working conditions were introduced involved a 36 hour shift every fourth day.  After one of those 36 hour shifts I fell asleep at the wheel whilst driving and crashed my car.  Luckily I was fine and thankfully nobody was hurt, but it was a scary experience. 
 
I have been watching this contract discussion evolve over the last few months and have realised that our contracts are so hard to explain succinctly that the general public are often lost by all the jargon or worse, they believe the spin from the Government.  Spurred on by a desire to disseminate accurate and clear information to the general public, a couple of months ago I teamed up with a man named Glyn Secker.  Glyn has a long history in trade union disputes and his son is a medical student. Together we spent four weeks writing and producing leaflets for distribution.  It was then that I realised that not only could we speak to the public directly to tell them exactly what was going on with the junior doctor contract but we could also provide them with ways to show their support.  We came up with the slogan 'We Support Our Junior Doctors To Protect Our NHS'.  As that's what we are.  We are your doctors and together with the nurses, surgeons and other health workers who work tirelessly to keep our health service running, we are your NHS. It was a message people could get behind. Simple and the truth.  We then set about producing a leaflet which listed the main points about the contract dispute on one side, and on the other, doubled up as a poster which people can put up in windows to show their support.
 
Since then, the amount of support and generosity people have shown us has been remarkable and extremely humbling. From my friend's husband who works for Breakfast Agency who helped out with the editing and design of the leaflet in his spare time, to the hundreds of people who have donated to the costs of the printing and left messages of support on our JustGiving crowdfunding page.  This is not an isolated incident. As well as my campaign,  other colleagues have been supported by the power of the crowd - almost 1,000 people have raised over £22,000 on JustGiving to pay for door-to-door campaigns, fund protests and even to help record and promote the NHS anthem 'Yours'. It truly is a grassroots movement that has been powered by people.  
 
Others have come forward to request copies of the leaflet for door drops in their streets. Copies have gone to every fire station in the country, bus depots, underground and railway stations.  People doing political door knocks have been giving the leaflets out alongside their own information, members of the general public, colleagues, parents, friend of the NHS have taken leaflets and have used them, posted them and and dispersed the information on them. 
 
Futhermore, this week I was asked to the postal trade union meeting, after which the postal union agreed they would help distribute our leaflets, London wide - and possibly national - as a show of solidarity with the junior doctors.  On the same night at the teachers' union meeting we learnt they had handed out copies of the leaflet to every one of their members. That's 300,000 teachers who will have posters up in their windows saying they support junior doctors.  Their assistant general secretary even tweeted a picture of the poster in his window, and then Natalie Bennett posed holding it and posted that on Facebook. 
 
I have been sent pictures of tube drivers, community halls, marches of people, all holding the leaflets in solidarity.  In Newcastle when the junior doctors marched, they converted the leaflet into placards.  During the Defend the Ten libraries march in Lambeth 2,000 people held up the leaflets as part of their support.  My favourite is a montage of pictures by a colleague who had seen the poster in every bus stop on his way to work.  On Tuesday a group of other trade union members contacted me to say they were setting up a Junior Doctors' Support Group, with the aim of 'just looking after us'.
 
When I started this journey I planned to make a few leaflets to explain the issues with the new junior doctor contract to people.  Because of the grassroots support, the solidarity and the importance of the NHS, a small campaign has snowballed into a national community coming together in their support of their junior doctors and their NHS.  Thank you to everyone, thank you for just being there for us in our time of need and please keep supporting us. This is a once in a generation fight. If we lose, there will be no NHS for the next.
 
You can donate to the crowdfunding page to help pay for more leaflets at: crowdfunding.justgiving.com/wesupportourjuniordoctors    

To request copies of the posters for distribution: http://bit.ly/1pelGJ7

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