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Wilkommen to my blog - my name is Karin Purshouse, and I'm a doctor in the UK. If you're looking for ramblings on life as a junior doctor, my attempts to dual-moonlight as a scientist and balancing all that madness with a life, you've come to the right place. I'm currently a doctor/research trainee in oncology after spending a year doing research in the USA. All original content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Sick of striking

Well now I'm really hacked off.

Striking, again?  Arguing, again?

As someone who can't strike (I'm doing research at the moment) I am somewhat spared the dilemma of every junior doctor in the UK of whether to go on strike or not - the relief is nonetheless palpable following the cancellation of the September strikes.  What I'm not spared is another round of pan-media debates of junior doctors on the one side being pushed and prodded to the end of reason with an ill-(/nil?)-funded plan for a 7-day NHS, and journalists/politicians/whoever-else-wants-to-have-a-go on the other side telling me about the immorality of doctors striking.

I am sick of it all.

I am really sick of the media circus that has this has become.  I am sick of people who do not spend their working days in hospitals telling me what my job as a junior doctor is like.  I am sick of people telling me that I lack vocation.  I am sick of people telling me it's about the money.  And I'm sick of what this is doing to the morale of my profession, and the far, far greater damage that is doing right now over anything else.  I probably wouldn't go on strike on this occasion, as is the feeling among most of the juniors I talk to, but that's not because we agree with the contract or are happy with how things are - there is just a feeling that the continuation of this argument is doing more harm than any anything else right now.

Ultimately, the effects of this will not be seen for another few years, but then it will not be salvageable.  The majority of junior doctors will see through their contracts, which are anything from two to eight years long (plus time out for research/babies/other), and then will simply apply to work elsewhere.  The real disasters will then be seen in the specialties that are already having a recruitment crisis - emergency medicine, acute medicine, obs and gynae - the truly out-of-hours specialties.  Rural areas that are already struggling hugely to retain any permanent staff will be in this situation across the board.  That isn't because people want to make a ton of cash.  It's because (according to Article 8 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) having something that resembles a private and family life is a reasonable need.  Working every other weekend simply does not make that possible.  Covering rota gaps is not safe and it's soul destroyingly dangerous.  Your body does not function the same when it's working at 3am versus 3pm.  And year after year of appraisals, exams, moving hospitals, audits - these things also have to be squeezed in somewhere, and for what?

The bottom line is, if these anti-social specialties get any worse in terms of rota-gaps/training gaps/terrible rotas/antisocial hours, people will just move with their feet.  Departments, like the maternity department in the Horton Hospital in Banbury, where I used to work, will close.  Communities and MPs protest about the unfairness of this, but the problem is simple - jobs are advertised, and no-one applies - because there aren't enough doctors to apply for these jobs.  Perhaps whole hospitals will close.  The rubber band will have been stretched too far, leading to an irreparable snap.

As a half-German Junior Doctor, it's starting to feel a lot like this little country is none too keen to have me around any more - and I know I'm not the only one who feels like this has just become too miserable for words.  Come on, government, doctors, people of England.  Get it together and end this battle so the NHS can win the war.
That 'work-life balance' lark in action in the Brecon Beacons