by Roshana Mehdian
As a female surgeon I followed the #ILookLikeASurgeon campaign with much excitement; what a worthy and relevant cause for a global movement! Women being mothers, daughters, sportswomen, fashionistas, etc... AND being surgeons.
I couldn't have known that just a few weeks later, I would be contacting the organisers of this movement to help me demonstrate that the world stands in solidarity with junior doctors in England, as they face the imposition of a contract that threatens patient safety and is unfair to dedicated professionals. I feel that the values imbued in our campaign against this contract – the primacy of patient care, fair treatment and conditions, and an end to gender discrimination – are relevant globally and not just in the UK.
The government has announced it will impose a draconian contract on all junior doctors (any doctor who is not a consultant or general practitioner) in England from August 2016, in the middle of one of the worst retention and recruitment crisis the country has ever seen. Needless to say, with such poor conditions on offer, physicians will vote with their feet, leaving the system even more understaffed and overstretched. This will have a profoundly deleterious effect of patient safety. Those that are left will have to cover the gaps and work unchecked hours. Tired doctors make mistakes. Patient safety is hit again.
Please watch this video for the story to date.
Why is the contract so bad?
- It removes the mechanism for safeguarding (monitoring hours and fines for overworking) - to ensure doctors are not too tired or overworked and therefore do not harm patients by being so.
- It is even more unsociable than the current contract, further disruption to our private lives will not properly be renumerated - Pay rates for Saturday evening are to be classed the same as working Tuesday morning. Who will provide childcare on Sat evening? Do doctors not deserve to be renumerated for working the most unsociable hours? A hit to morale, our ability to pay our mortgages or look after our children and thus a massive hit to recruitment.
- It is potentially discriminatory - it penalises those who take maternity leave, part time working or researchers; leading to potential financial hardship for women bearing children and discouraging lifesaving research. How can we allow such a step back?
Our union, the British Medical Association, voted to ballot us for industrial action. The government should never have let it come to this, but I'm afraid they only have themselves to blame.
We will fight this - not just for us, but for those on the cutting block next, our nurses, for those across the world facing similar battles, and ultimately for our patients!
I am truly in awe of how, as a profession, we fight through adversity (be it the challenging situations at work, the emotional toll or this latest contract saga) with such resilience. All of us, including our colleagues; nurses, physiotherapists, cleaners, clerks, pharmacists etc...in the healthcare world deserve recognition for what we do, not least a fair and safe contract.
Please stand with us in solidarity and tweet to make your voice heard!
Sample tweet: "I stand in solidarity with the #ILookLikeASurgeon community and oppose the #NotFairNotSafe #JuniorContract!"
Thanks for reading.
Roshana Mehdian, MBCHB MRCS BMSC PGCEMedEd
Trauma and Orthopaedic Registrar, Concerned Junior Doctor