My opinion on the junior contracts initiated by Jeremy Hunt, from the perspective of a first year medical student.

For those who don't live in the UK, you probably won't know but for those that do, you should.

In recent years our healthcare system system, the National Health Service (NHS) has come under threat and the latest in this story is the junior contracts.

These are the contracts which regulate the junior doctors that work in the NHS, from hours to pay. From the moment the changes were initially announced, the BMA has been fighting back against the government, especially Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt. After a failing of negotiations and plans still to go ahead, junior doctors, together with the BMA decided to hold strike action on multiple dates, to try and get the message across to the public and government alike.

What a lot of people don't seem to understand is that junior doctors aren't just medics who have recently graduated, but it also includes those who have up to 14 years of experience in medical care. The starting salary for a junior doctor is just under £23,000.

Why don't we want it to go ahead?
Facts are mainly taken from the BMA website.

  • Extend routine working hours from 60 per week to 90. Is working 9pm on a Saturday the same as working 9am on a Tuesday? According to the contract it is. 
  • Remove vital safeguards which discourage employers from making junior doctors work dangerously long hours.
  • See pay no longer matching with the experience junior doctors' gain through their training.
  • But the main reason is that all these reasons add together and scare us all. In implementing these measures we will fail to protect both patients and doctors safety. Patients are at risk.

On the 11th of February 2016, news broke that the government have decided to implement the new contracts despite the strike industrial action and public support. Since being released, many doctors are "speaking with their feet" and the number of doctors applying to work abroad has increased by 1000%. No one wants this to happen, so we need to stop it!

So why do we need a new contract?According to Jeremy, death rates in the NHS are higher on the weekend due to the number of junior doctors being reduced. Even other members of the government have said that this is not the case. There was a report released suggesting deaths are higher on weekends but there was no link made to it being due to the number of junior doctors working. In fact, junior doctors do work 24/7, no not at full capacity but we actually can't.

The reason?

It's the other services that we need to be more 24/7 to help diagnose, treat and discharge patients like labs and social workers.

Apparently, it's not about the money. This will be a cost neutral new contract. So basically, that means they will be making what they call a 5 day NHS a full coverage, 7 day NHS for the same money. But the doctors won't lose any money? How is that possible?! It isn't as Arjun Samuel explains in his post:

From next April a junior Doctor earning £23000 a year, equates to £442.30 a week. if they manage to stick to 56 hours (highly unlikely) that's just £7.89 an hour. As of April next year Ikea staff paid £7.85/hr, Aldi £8.40/hr, Lidl and Morrisons £8.20/hr. This really brings it home how much our Health Secretary values Junior Doctors, when they can quit and go earn more per hour stacking tins of beans at their local Aldi and only have to work 52hrs to earn the same yearly salary and saving themselves 4 hrs a week, not pay £420/- to the GMC, save money on paying the professional indemnity insurance and BMA fees. Why stay a doctor in the NHS?

Social Media
Lots of people have been active on social media in support of the junior doctors so why won't Jeremy see?!
On Twitter
From the Welsh Government:
#Juniordoctors from any part of the UK interested in working in Wales will find a very warm welcome here

From the Scottish Government:
Nicola Sturgeon has opened #FMQs attacking Jeremy Hunt and assuring Scotland's junior doctors the contract will not be imposed here.

We all know #juniorcontract is another tactic from the Tories to run down the #NHS so the public support its privatisation.

Please don't tell me what affects my morale @Jeremy_Hunt, you alone are responsible for my sadness and despair #juniorcontract

Wow #JeremyHunt has COMPLETELY underestimated and undermined the entire medical profession. I think he will regret it.

On Facebook
From Jeremy Corbyn:
Jeremy Hunt's decision to impose a contract on junior doctors is provocative and damaging. Rather than helping to resolve this difficult dispute, his action will only inflame it.

The BMA has continued to table proposals to settle the dispute. The fact that the Health Secretary is now simply trying to impose his will rather than negotiate, demonstrates a lack of confidence in his own arguments.

We need to recognise the huge contribution junior doctors make and the years of training they go through to look after us. These are people dedicated to our health and our NHS.

Patients, doctors, the BMA and the public want an agreed settlement. What is now keeping this dispute going are the actions of the Secretary of State himself.

More strikes now look likely. If that happens, it will be clear that the blame lies with the government, not the doctors.

Even at this late stage, I appeal to Jeremy Hunt to go back and negotiate with the BMA.

This government is reckless with our NHS and is now prepared to put patient care at risk in the service of its self-defeating austerity programme.

This video is also incredibly catchy and I remember when I heard everyone singing it at the strike it was amazing!

Why did I want to be a doctor? 
Despite what people think, I did not want to be a doctor because of the money. I honestly didn't. Yes, I wanted to have a stable, guaranteed job for financial security. I don't like to rely on people and I like to be self-sufficient. But I didn't go into university for 6+ years to make money. There are a lot more, much easier ways to do that.

I came into medicine because I loved science. It's always been my favourite subject at school; it's always been the subject that came naturally to me and I always wanted to learn more. I spent a lot of my teenager years volunteering between different nurseries with children from birth to 6 years and I loved it. I loved that someone relied on me to help them. The responsibility was on me to take charge and take care of them; they were dependent on me to call the shots. I wanted a career that was both intellectually stimulating but also meant I had a chance to be sociable to communicate with people on a daily basis. But most importantly, I wanted to help people. I wanted to do my very best everyday, with my very best intentions, to improve somebody else's life, health and wellbeing.

If this goes ahead, I'm not sure I'll be able to do what I want. I won't be able to do my very best because I will be tired. I will be rushed. I will be pushed too hard. I will crumble.

If you are at all interested in this matter, and for the safety of doctors and patients alike you should be, please sign this petition!

Depressed, demoralised, disheartened. Signing off.