So, what is the latest health threat that doctors are warning the public about in the UK at present? No, we haven't just identified a new strain of Ebola, tomatoes are still good for you, and disappointingly strawberry daiquiris are yet to contribute to your five-a-day. The newest threat to your health, is ironically the health secretary Jeremy Hunt himself.
So what are the doctors saying behind closed doors? They are saying that they have had enough. They are declaring that they will unify against the government and that they will fight. They are warning their children not to follow their career path, and considering their options very carefully also. Many have been tempted by warmer climates, or a career change all together. They are adamant that they will not back down, and that the government has picked the wrong group of professionals to attack.
Junior doctors work long hours and these proposals will remove the safety limits that ensure doctors are not over tired. Being fatigued and stressed impairs judgement and increases the chances of mistakes. Would you want a tired and over worked doctor making life and death decisions about you or your family? Neither would we!
Your safety is being put at risk. My greatest fear is that nothing changes, the NHS slowly crumbles, stretching more and more, doctors too tired to concentrate, patient care suffering, safety put at risk. You as a patient know this from your experiences every day. If the NHS is going to survive for the future, all of us - patients, public, professionals and politicians, need to accept that it isn't working. We need an honest discussion about its future. We need to start talking.
Fundamentally I believe that we as patients must understand our responsibility to respect the free access we have to our GP, practice nurse, midwife or other primary care based professional. We expect their professionalism and access to them in a timely manner - it's not a lot to ask that we should also keep our side of the bargain too.
I was politically ambivalent about the general election. Like a lot of NHS staff, I was torn between knowing that things were bad in the health service, especially in general practice, but equally knowing that a change of government would inevitably mean some sort of re-branding, reorganisation and changes of priorities. I knew an NHS on its knees already wouldn't cope with that. When the result came in, it was going to be more of the same. No massive changes, just slogging on trying to get the government to listen. I was totally wrong.
A truly seven day NHS is something we should aspire towards. I don't disagree with that. But as with everything else, it is the timescale and funding which is wholly unrealistic and will inevitably lead to harm to patients. Can he not remember the waiting time breaches of last winter? Is he ignoring the GP practices closing across the country? This is not doctors wanting a lifestyle choice. Our first role is to act in our patients best interests, as an advocate for them. Why does Mr Hunt refuse to listen to the profession, both at national and grass roots level? Why is he hell bent on chasing headlines and not on improving care and patient safety?