One day after the imposition of the new junior doctor contract the wound is still raw. It's a certain type of pain that even our already-existing 7-day NHS couldn't cure. Morale amongst NHS staff is at an all time low and the future of the NHS looks bleak.
I am writing this short piece to give my opinion and feelings on the matter of the junior doctor contracts as a medical student. Categorically, I would like to say that this new contract is absolutely devastating and appaling.
Jeremy Hunt is willing to sacrifice patient care by stretching staff even further without any extra funding. A 7-day NHS already exists for emergency patients and doctors already work round the clock every day of the year. Therefore, stretching the already-scarce resources and funds any further will ultimately result in a devastating collapse.
I am not working extremely hard to conquer my five-year medical degree (not including the many years of my hard work beforehand in preparation for medical school), just so that I can be made to work dangerous hours, for less pay and under a minister who has lost all trust from the public and health care professionals.
Tired doctors make mistakes. It's as simple as that. I ask Hunt, would he truly want an understandably tired doctor operating on a relative of his? If a junior doctor can't look after their own health, how can they look after that of their patients?
Before starting medical school, I had dreams of working for the NHS in my hometown of Luton as I saw it as a way of giving back to my community. But over the last couple of years, the constant bombardment that the NHS has taken from the Conservative government is slowly but surely gearing it up towards privatisation. I do not want to work for a private company only interested in profit. I repeat: I do not want to work in a privatised NHS. I believe these contracts are a further nail in the coffin for the public NHS and as such my dreams of working in the NHS are sadly diminishing.
I did not sign up to work in constant fear that I could make a mistake due to being overworked and exhausted. This new contract will make that a lot more likely. According to the contract, routine working hours will be increased from 60 per week to 90. It is unacceptable that working 9pm on a Saturday is viewed the same as working 9am on a Tuesday.
The new contract removes vital safeguards which are necessary to discourage employers from making junior doctors work dangerously long hours. This will have a detrimental effect on both patient and doctor safety. Also, pay will no longer match with the experience junior doctors' gain through their training.
To round up, I have never been so likely to move abroad to work as a doctor than I am now and have even conducted some online searches into careers in Australia and Dubai. I want to be a safe and well-rested doctor who's able to provide the best possible care for my patients. There's reports of hundreds of doctors having left their NHS jobs already due to these new contracts. Will I become one of them? I can not say I won't.
However, there is still hope in me that the NHS will overcome these hurdles and hardships thrown at it by the Conservatives. If the contracts are reversed or even improved in the very near future, I would like to think that I'd stay in the NHS without a doubt. After all, it is the greatest healthcare system in the world.