The NHS saved my baby. And now I want to repay the favour.
The NHS saw me through my childhood, vaccinations, German measles, chicken pox, tonsillitis to name but a few childhood illnesses.
The NHS diagnosed my chronic hypertension, and then they helped me manage it.
The NHS helped train the GP that celebrated with me when I walked in with my positive pregnancy test, that took time out to snuggle with my tiny newborn at my six week check, that cared when she asked me how I was, really. And meant it. (And thank you again Dr Evans!)
The NHS trained the team who performed my category one crash c section, that urged everyone to move faster. That lives were at stake. They did all this in 7 minutes.
The NHS is more than just a healthcare system. It is more than just the doctors. It is everyone. Every cog. Every person. But today, today I'm talking about the Junior Doctors.
These past few weeks I've had my eyes opened and learnt so much about the NHS, specifically those super beings of the NHS in the doctors that I didn't know before through the power of social media and blogging. And I just want to say thank you to you all out there.
The Myth a Junior Doctor is junior
I always, always, assumed a junior doctor was fresh out of medical school, completed a year and bam was a "real" doctor. What I didn't realise was the years of dedication and training and you stay a junior doctor until you reach consultant level (or GP). A doctor remains junior for a minimum of seven years. Seven. And that is the minimum time taken to reach consultant level. Often it's longer.
Junior doctors encompass all from house officers to speciality registrars, all the titles given merely grades given under the umbrella of Junior Doctor to work towards that all important consultant grade where you can shed the shackles of the term "junior".
Yes, junior doctors will include fresh faced graduates, but that's not all of them, that's not the whole picture, the whole story.
These "junior" doctors can be parents raising young families, can be sons and daughters caring for elderly parents, can be part of the couple desperately trying to start a family, could be single with no time to go out to carve a life for themselves, could be the person walking across the street from you. Except chances are they aren't that person because they will be working, apparently social hours of work are, going to be, from 7am-10pm Monday through Saturday for a doctor.
For the rest of us, social hours are 9am-5pm Monday to Friday. And yes, I know many of you will work longer hours. Unsocial hours. But we aren't contracted to do so. And generally there is a form of compensation, or the flexibility for you to leave early on another day.
Junior doctors are required to work these hours as part of their contracted hours. Not only that but they work those longer hours to provide a 24 hour service, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
You get sick on Christmas? You go see a doctor. You get sick at 3am at night? Doctor. Your child falls out a tree and breaks his arm on a Sunday morning, yep, you guessed it Doctor. And in each case chances are a "junior" doctor.
We take for granted so much of what we feel we are entitled to with the NHS. With access to healthcare, with access to over worked yet "junior" doctors. That these doctors are there to work for us, as a country, in hospitals, surgeries, research.....
Oh yes. Research, in other words potentially career progression halting.
You know, all important research into diseases and conditions that we all want a cure for leads to a doctor choosing to halt their career progression. And while they are halting their progression through to elusive consultant status they are also halting any potential pay progression. All the while performing vital research. Desperately searching for cures. For answers. For understanding. Of diseases so terrible you can only hope and pray they don't touch your family. Would I, when I was a banking professional, do that? Work so hard on something so vital, so critical, yet not be recognized either via promotion or pay? No. I wouldn't. Would you?
Our junior doctors do.
Reasearch like cancer research.
Did you know that one in two people born after 1960 is diagnosed with some form of cancer in their lifetime (statistic from Cancer Research)? That there are five categories of cancer. Categories. Not specific types, just ways in which you can categorise a disease which, in all probability, will touch us all. There are doctors working to find a cure for each strain, in each category. Researching on how best to treat. Looking at mutations. Working with patients, often terminal cases, in an effort to make a difference. To help. To beat the disease.
Research like Research into Gestational Conditions.
HELLP. Pre-eclampsia. Gestational Diabetes. To name but a few conditions that may effect you while pregnant. We don't know the whys or the hows. We don't know what the root cause is in all cases, sometimes we don't know why these things happen at all. Life threatening not just to a mother or a baby.
In each of my pregnancies hypertension was an issue. In each of my pregnancies it was managed and treated thanks to medical research. Most importantly in each of my pregnancies I brought home a healthy baby boy. Thanks to those doctors working tirelessly, taking samples, analysing, cross checking, seeing thousands of pregnant women, hoping each time to find out why, how, when. What they can do to help. What drugs are safe. Where the critical points lie.
Research like SIDS Research.
Trying to understand the whys of this life changing devastating death. To help us all keep our babies a little bit safer. To understand what may cause a tiny, defenceless baby to simply cease living and to use that research to help hundreds of thousands more babies, babies that are born and yet to be born.
Research into ALS and other conditions.
Facebook and the ice bucket challenge may have raised awareness of ALS along with much needed funds for research. But who are the researchers? You can bet your bottom dollar that junior doctors will help make up that task force.
What would you say?
And what would you say if you, or someone you loved, was touched by anything above that research was halted? Because it's not sustainable for doctors to carry on? To live like this?
I've only touched on a few pieces of research, of course there are more. More than I will ever know or realise about. Into disease and various strains of disease. Into complications. Into science. Until it touches me I may not even understand the full force or impact that this research has. That this research will do for me. For you.
Of course not all doctors go into research though it's highly likely at some point they will in order to be the best doctor they can be. Or because their specialisation requires it.
There is still the constant educating yourself. Paying, out of your own pocket for that training. I've never had to pay for a training course that enabled me to perform my job better - have you?
Having to keep passing exams. Remaining on the register. On top of a patient work load.
Compassion. Staying that extra five minutes here, over running by 10 minutes there. Not from drinking coffee. Or checking Facebook. Or the little things I used to be able to do during my working day. But by spending an extra five minutes answering questions of a panicked and frightened patient who's been newly diagnosed with something they weren't expecting. 10 minutes here explaining the surgery they are about to undertake on your child, reiterating the same point to help calm you. Help you understand. Minutes, hours sometimes, to help console someone recently bereaved.
After my crash section, though I can't remember my doctors name, that very doctor who made the call to send me rushing down the corridor (sitting on the bed monitoring me the whole way, speaking calm words of reassurance even though she knew she had only minutes to get this right) to my son being born seven minutes later, blue, not breathing, with an AGPAR of two. To breathing life back into him. Him turning pink. Finding out he was a him. She then took the time once her shift had ended to come and see me. To check on me. To check on the Toddler (or baby as he was then) to hold him. To coo at him. To tell me not to worry I did a good job. She didn't have to do that. But I'll never forget it. She was a junior doctor.
Basic pay starting at £22,636. Approximately £9 per hour....
A maximum 48 hour week has been passed by government. Doesn't sound too bad? That is a 48 hour average week. Averaged throughout the year. Including holiday time. That is a total of 2,496 hours a year. Contracted hours.
You get a rota, and that's that. Your hours are locked in. Contracted. And throughout the year rota's will tend to be 50% of weeks working under 48 hours (you know, 40 hours, 44.5 hours) and 50% of weeks working more than 48 hours (50h, 56h, 74h)* #notsafenotfair.
To put that in perspective I took my last contract (seeing as my current contract is unpaid, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year - welcome to parenthood!) looking at those hours. My contracted hours were 39.5 hours a week PLUS 30 days holiday PLUS 8 public holidays. Yes, I didn't stick to my contracted hours. I never took a lunch. There were days I worked 12 hours. There were weeks that I was heading for 60+ hour weeks. BUT these weren't my contracted hours. My contracted hours amounted to 1,840 annually.
A difference of 655 hours to a Junior Doctors contracted hours. A difference of 27 days. A difference of 16 and a half of my working weeks.
How is that fair? How is that safe? That in one year a junior doctor will be contracted that much more than me?
The years training in University.
Five years. After securing three As in A Levels. Racking up student debt.
The years training on the job.
Minimum of seven years to reach consultant level, that's to reach consultancy in Radiology with two years of foundation and five years specialty training. Realistically a lot of specialties require fellowships, further research degrees (oh that elusive research above again), further education, management qualifications.
All at a cost to yourself. Courses and exams can be anywhere up to (and over) £3,500.
The paycut being enforced.
Expected to be 30%.
Do you begrudge....?
Do you begrudge someone making ends meet? Do you begrudge someone being able to afford their family? Do you begrudge someone living out their hopes and dreams? Do you begrudge someone being fairly compensated for the work that they do? Do you begrudge someone working a safe number of hours a week?
And that's why I signed the petition to oppose the change in the junior doctor contract.
Thank you to all of those in the NHS....
"The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it"
- Aneurin Bevan, the founder of the NHS
*Thank you to Dr Jonathon for sharing his current rota with me.
This post first appeared here.