Bleek on Activism, Politics and Socio-Political Discourse
Monday 28th Sept 2015 saw Junior Doctors protesting outside Westminster over proposed changes to their contracts.
The proposed changes would reclassify normal working hours to include 7am -10pm on a Saturday as well as extending weekday hours, meaning they could end up to working longer hours, for up to 30% less pay.
The BMA (The British Medical Association) walked away from negotiations after Jeremy Hunt (*unt) and NHS Employers stated that they would only negotiate under certain preconditions and would not address any of the BMA’s concerns - Hardly the definition of negotiation.
The BMA has three main concerns that it would like the Government to address:
• "Extending routine working hours 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."
• "Removing vital safeguards which discourage employers from making junior doctors work dangerously long hours, and in doing so protect both patient and doctor safety."
• "Seeing pay no longer matching with the experience junior doctors' gain through their training.”
As you can see, it’s not just about pay, which I’m sure is what the government spin machine will try and convince you. Junior Doctors are up in arms for this usually peaceful leftie group, which means something must’ve really got under their skin.
Firstly I’d like to clarify what exactly a Junior Doctor is, as many lay people I have spoken to seem to think this is the F1 or House Officer who is fresh out of medical school - Not so, a Junior Doctor is any Doctor who isn’t a Consultant or a fully qualified GP, basically the greatest proportion of the Doctors you see.
Their primary concerns are on a level with each other, one personal, the other one socialist. The personal concern is the unprecedented attack on their pay and working conditions. Medical graduates are some of the lowest paid in society, considering the intense study and cost to train, it’s no small financial sacrifice to become a Doctor. They can leave medical school with well over £30,000 in debt and have to pay for their own post graduate training in order to progress and treat your illnesses better. Just imagine starting out your life at 23 shouldering that debt, then have your pay cut so you’ll probably spend the rest of your life paying it back? Sound fair to you? Me neither. The new contract proposals not only cut the anti-social hours supplement Doctors receive, but also penalises anyone who takes time out of their job for any reason, be that to do research, gain skills in other specialties, change your mind and switch specialties or god forbid have children. Even more infuriating, the changes seem to hit families and women hardest. I know Doctors are supposed to sacrifice, but is it fair to expect them to sacrifice their families?
The other major concern, is the reclassification of “normal working hours” essentially making Saturdays and evenings into normal working hours. Many Junior Doctors are already on their knees with the hours they do. They sacrifice time with their families - most of the rest of the world work 9-5pm, how do you co-ordinate family time, socialising and other important events when your working patterns differ so vastly from everyone else? The answer, you don’t, you miss first days at school, bedtime stories, school plays, weddings, funerals and much more, why? because you recognise the NHS needs you, your patients need you and this is the sacrifice you make, and you do it day in day out without grumbling. The Government is naive to think that these Doctors just clock in and out when their time is up - we all know that’s not true, just like nurses they put in hours and hours of unpaid overtime to prop up a massively underfunded healthcare system - and they just get on with it.
Not only does Jeremy *unt want to change their hours, he also wants to remove safeguards that would mean Hospitals no longer have an obligation to ensure their Doctors work a safe number of hours - I don’t know about you but I do not want to be dragged back to the dark days of our Junior Doctors being overworked and over tired, even more than they already are!!!
So why should you care? I mean Doctors are hardly on the bread line? But I urge you to consider this, what is the best way to convince you that something should be replaced? Show that it is no longer working, right? The way I see it, the Government has a vested interest in ensuring the NHS fails - Privatisation, and what a great way to crush an organisation by demoralising the very people that keep it patched together on a shoestring budget in the first place.