'Called All The Names Under The Sun': The Bleak Reality Of Life In NHS Uncovered In New Campaign

Their struggles go far beyond just low pay.
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A new campaign has unmasked the hideous reality for many NHS workers – and their testimonies are horrifying.

Junior doctors embarked on the longest industrial action in the history of the NHS between July 13 and 18, and hospital consultants are striking between July 20 and 22.

Workers are calling for a 35% pay rise, with the British Medical Association (a trade union) claiming pay has been cut by 26% in real terms.

The action affected roughly 600,000 hospital appointments across the NHS, according to the health service, and comes after doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals voted against the government’s offer of 5% and a non-consolidated payment.

Health secretary Steve Barclay said the 25% salary increase was unreasonable, and would only consider a larger pay rise if strikes were called off.

However, a campaign launched last Thursday, called ‘Why Would Anyone Do This Job’ launched by a start-up online development platform for professionals within health and social care – Feaniks – has shown that the problems for NHS workers go far beyond pay.

The founders gave NHS staff a place to share their troubling experiences, after a huge number of healthcare professionals started to reveal their own challenges through #MedTwitter and JuniorDoctor subreddit.

Hundreds of thousands of health and social care workers also quit their jobs just in 2022.

While many of those who share their experiences on ‘Why Would Anyone Do This Job’ chose to remain anonymous to avoid potential backlash from the NHS, a handful of individuals were happy to be named – and share more about their lives in the healthcare system.

‘I’ve been sworn at, I’ve been swung for, I’ve been spat at’

Dr Michael Mrozinski used to work at a London hospital but now works in Australia after becoming disillusion by life as a junior doctor in the UK.

He told the platform: “While I’ve been at work I’ve been sworn at, I’ve been swung for, I’ve been spat at, I’ve been pissed on, I’ve been called all the names under the sun. All this seemed to be par for the course, not just for doctors, but for all healthcare workers.”

He recalled how he was once in a “state of shock” after his team was unsuccessful in resuscitating a patient who had been stabbed in the chest.

When he then attended his next patient and apologised for the delay, he was told: “I don’t care, I just want my shoulder sorted out.”

Mrozinski said: “I think in that moment, I realised that medicine is a thankless task the majority of the time. We rarely do get any thanks and seem to bear the brunt of people’s frustrations.

“I didn’t get any psychological support in the hospitals, and I still feel traumatised by this, to this day. Psychological support should be mandatory for junior doctors, who are young people in the 20s when exposed to traumatic situations.”

Dr Michael Mrozinski
Dr Michael Mrozinski
Dr Michael Mrozinski

‘I felt drained both emotionally and physically’

Dr Elle-Louise Morris, a doctor in Yorkshire in her second foundation year, and a cohort director of the Healthcare Leadership Academy, recalled a particular experience which she described as a “striking example of the strain that the NHS is under”.

Six months into her time as a doctor, while working 12-hour night shifts (normally three or four nights in row), Morris found herself “responsible for most jobs on these wards overnight” with her colleagues called over to other locations.

She said she had 80 tasks on her list – only some of which could be rolled over to the next day.

She added, “as a new doctor, this felt very overwhelming” and that she did not feel able to take a break due to the volume of work.

Morris added: “When I left the shift, I was thinking for days about diagnoses and investigations I may have missed. I did my best clinically and was happy with my decisions – however, I felt drained both emotionally and physically.

“From speaking with other doctors, this is not unusual. However, that does not make it right. We do not have enough staff to offer patients the time that they deserve.

“An hour spent talking to a patient, detracts from the time we can spend with several others. It is worrying and stressful to enter a medical career at the moment. I can completely appreciate why colleagues are choosing to leave the NHS, for systems with better staffing and pay, and I genuinely feel that things need to improve soon.”

Dr Elle-Louise Morris
Dr Elle-Louise Morris @DrElleMorris
Dr Elle-Louise Morris

‘Abuse of power, lack of respect, robbing people of their dignity’

Dr Simon Flemming, an orthopaedic surgeon who left London for Australia, now also works as a speaker and lecturer to improve standards in medical training, and to drive out bullying and racism in the NHS.

He told the platform he has a whole range of experiences in the health service, covering “every facet of things one would not want to happen in a workplace or in a community”.

Flemming continued: “Abuse of power, lack of respect, robbing people of their dignity and autonomy. I have experienced or witnessed most, if not all of these.”

He claimed the NHS is orientated around “power, patriarchy, and problematic behaviours” – which is why recruitment and retention of staff is so difficult.

“Until we address all of [these issues], until respect and belonging and accountability are what we do and who we are, we will never address the recruitment and retention crisis we have in healthcare,” Flemming added.

Dr Simon Flemming
Dr Simon Flemming
Dr Simon Flemming

‘Management at the highest level lacking empathy’

Another testimony came from radiographer Sam Futerman, who used to work in the NHS in Newcastle and Edinburgh, but left after experiencing mental health problems linked to his job.

He told ‘Why Would Anyone Do This Job’: “I loved my role and caring for all of the patients but the work life balance became a ticking timebomb for my mental health.”

He said the night shifts, when there are four in a row, are just “not healthy”.

He added: “Overall, it was the deteriorating health of those who work in the health service. Poor food, ridiculously long shifts back-to-back with no effective occupational health (apart from when you’re really sick) – no proactive health initiatives and management at the highest level lacking empathy.”

Other anonymous include claims from junior doctors that “on my first ever nightshift I was the only doctor looking after 450 patients by myself, and I had to save four critically unwell patients at the same time”.

Another nurse said: “We are all exhausted. We are handling more patients more than what we can handle. And this affects the care and safety that we provide. I feel so bad because I know my work is becoming riskier at the expense of my patients’ lives and my health.”

Others described their shifts in A&E as comparable to a “warzone”, that they “couldn’t afford” both breakfast and lunch.

One junior doctor said: “This shouldn’t be a reality in a first world country like ours, but it is. ”

They continued: “I am a graduate so I have built up over a £100,000 worth of student debt on top of having to pay for mandatory examination, course, defence union and registration fees which can cost hundreds of pounds.”