Like my colleagues, I spent years learning the skills of my profession. Now Jeremy Hunt wants to destroy our ability to use them
‘The public should know that we are striking as a last resort, to try to stop a terrible scenario unfolding.’ Photograph: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire
The secret doctor
Thursday 7 January 2016 15.45 GMTLast modified on Tuesday 19 July 201613.43 BST
As we approach the junior doctors’ strike, I have been asked a lot about the mood at the hospital. In this moment Robert Owen describes how I feel better than I can: “God and the doctor we alike adore/ But only when in danger, not before;/ The danger o’er, both are alike requited,/ God is forgotten, and the doctor slighted.”
Junior doctors in England to strike next week after talks break down
Frankly, I am lost for words at the actions of the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt. His refusal to acknowledge the need for adequate safeguards for patients and doctors leads me to wonder if he has a deep-seated resentment for the entire medical profession – and for patients.
The BMA have tried to work with the government, but they won’t compromise on the safety of patients or doctors. Would you want them to accept proposals that risk lives? No – neither would I. This principle is at the heart of why we are striking, and despite Hunt’s attempts to downplay it, we take it very seriously.
As I try to make sense of his actions, I begin to wonder about the government’s motives. Privatisation by stealth and selling off the NHS is the obvious suspicion: dismantling, piece by piece, the institution that embodies the pinnacle of our achievements in postwar Britain. This threat is so widely feared that we need to take it seriously.
Within my own family of medics, the plan for everyone is to look for work outside England
And what are the impacts of Hunt’s actions so far? Within my own family of medics – two GPs, a paediatrician, a medical student and me, an A&E doctor – the plan for everyone is to look for work outside England. One is heading to Scotland, another to New Zealand and the medical student is not sure he will even practise once qualified. All of this has happened since the junior contract was attacked by Hunt.
We are not alone. The Student Room, which houses the largest online community of medical students in the UK, conducted a survey of almost 1,550 students and found 37% who had wanted to study medicine said they had changed their minds as a result of Hunt’s proposed contract changes. This is a direct threat to the core of the UK’s future medical workforce.
The public should know that we are striking as a last resort, to try to stop a terrible scenario unfolding here in England. Our lives are dedicated to your care. When you’ve been sick we’ve been with you. It’s not just a job. It’s never “just another” patient – at that moment in time you are everything. We have spent years studying, absorbing knowledge to give us the skills to heal you. You know what we do and you know we care. So why is Hunt not listening? Does he not value you as a patient – and hence that’s why he does not value us as those that care for you? Will you stand with us?
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My father has been in hospital seven times over the past 12 months, and on three of those occasions the NHS and my colleagues saved his life. My parents are elderly with health problems, like a growing proportion of the population. I know I can care for them medically, but not everyone has the luxury of a doctor at home. Whenever I treat a patient I always think of how I would want my mother and father to be cared for. How am I going to be able to look after your parents in the same way if Hunt pushes through his plans?
There’s a huge lump in my throat as I write this. Why? Because I think of all those hours of dedication, all those moments with my patients and my ongoing commitment to them – and how this government is trying to destroy that.
Link – https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jan/07/doctors-strike-jeremy-hunt-secret-doctor