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'Striking is just something doctors should not do'

Dr Nick Summerton, a GP in East Yorkshire and a former NICE adviser, argues that junior doctors should be speaking to the Government, and not striking

We are supposed to be professionals and patient focused. This strike is so damaging to the profession and I don’t see what it will achieve.

It’s a symptom of what’s going on with the NHS at the moment - there has to come a point when junior doctors decide whether they are professionals or not.

There’s an ‘I can’t be bothered’ culture among some junior doctors - some can’t be bothered to send out letters when patients are discharged or give us calls to let us know about results or deaths.

I think it is right that patients have access to a seven-day a week health service and if junior doctors dispute this they should continue to oppose the scheme with dialogue and discussion, not a strike.

It’s causing a lot of disruption - there is certainly an issue of trust between the BMA and the department of health, yes, but striking is just something doctors should not do.

That junior doctors are willing to strike is a tragic symptom of the deprofessionalisation of the medical profession. Back when I trained, being a junior doctor was awful, you’d work days and nights and nights again but we had a dialogue, not a strike.

Dr Nick Summerton is a GP in East Yorkshire and a former NICE adviser

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Readers' comments (125)

  • I disagree almost entirely. Being "patient focused" means working for the benefit of patients in the medium and long term, not just the present.
    What you interpret as "I can't be bothered" might instead be the result of the fragmentation of consultant/SR/R/SHO/HO teams and direct chain of responsibility resulting in too many juniors being involved with each patient on a shift basis. I agree that there is an increasing tendency of "GP to do" but one might assume that to be ignorance rather than idleness.
    Patients already access to a 7 day a week health service - why imply otherwise? - and no-one is disputing the need, just the expectation to be paid accordingly.
    Dialogue and discussion both require more than one party to be willing to listen; monologue, political spin, selective deafness, misunderstanding of research and intransigence one one side rather preclude dialogue and discussion

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  • The Junior doctors have decided and what they have decided is that they are professionals and patient focused but that the NHS is not professional and not patient focused. They will not work for a non-professional organisation under conditions that are unsafe and unfair and that will decimate the professionalism of their chosen profession in the future. Please don't infantilise your junior colleagues who are probably brighter than and at least as well trained as you. After all who trained them? Back when you and I qualified it was awful being a junior doctor. But being abused by a system should not be passed down the generations as we would not condone the dreadful way that child abuse seems to pass down the generations.
    The juniors are saying it stops now. Enough is enough.
    A seven day service with no extra money and no more doctors won't reduce the death rate at weekends. It will increase the death rates during the week to those of the weekend.
    I suspect that we will look back on this as a moment to radically reform the NHS into an organisation that adapts to future needs with apps remote monitoring, telehealth and technologies that you and I will never understand. Old fogies such as myself and yourself will stand back in amazement as the current junior now senior doctors use technology to help patients and themselves achieve a work life balance.
    Striking is not deprofessionalisation but a recognition of what the future holds. Disruption is an apt choice of words. for disruption of health industry is what is going to happen, but that will happen with or without a strike. Why should Health be the only industry that is not disrupted?

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  • I think what they oppose most is the removal of the safeguards that limit trusts imposing unsafe hours.

    And there has been a strike in the past - some 40 years ago - or was that before when "people like you" trained?

    So the problem must be with people older AND younger than yourself, but not your generation of medical leaders who have left the profession in a fine old state.

    Wake up and smell the coffee, it's precisely the attitute and opinion that you express above tha't led us all up this creek.

    I think when you're the last GP standing in East Yorkshire you might reflect more on how you've go it so, so wrong this time.

    Solidarity is not a trait that comes easily to some GPs.

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  • Dr Summerton: are you Jeremy Hunt in disguise?

    You need to take a long hard look at yourself and your generation and ask how the NHS got to be in the state it is today. Far from 'not being bothered' us juniors are finally showing a bit of backbone and standing up for ourselves AND the NHS.

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  • A massive Tory cardigan-wearing pseudo-martyr if I've ever seen one.

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  • I am so pleased to have yet another senior doctor with questionable neutrality tell me what I should be thinking.

    It makes it so much easier. I'll just go back to doing as I'm told.

    Thank you for letting me know that things were better in your day. Gosh, what a time to be alive. If only they still made doctors like that now.

    I'm mean to think that at 25 years of age with 2 degrees, 1 national prize, publications, presentations, a teaching portfolio and a genuine ambition to work for the NHS that I'm still not as good as you were is simply humbling. Back to the drawing board I go. Must do better...

    Oh no, wait, I'll just leave the UK. Problem solved.

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  • Can't be bothered to send out discharge letters? More like do not have the time to type up the bloody things. Can't even get to the loo in a 15 hour shift, there are always more urgent patients to see, and discharge letters are not priority one and so don't get done.
    Ridiculous statement.

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  • Would this be Dr Summerton, who's surgery is not open on weekends or after 6pm, telling junior doctors that they should just shut up and work more weekends/ evenings/ nights.

    I would put to this chap that the professional thing to do, would be to volunteer to cover A+E every other weekend to help out. There is no need to be paid extra, because he is already being paid as a GP.

    Good luck with that.

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  • As a GP practice manager, I agree that the attitude of home junior doctors when it comes to discharges and follow ups can at times be atrocious.

    I have taken part in processes in which it was explained to the hospital doctors as to why it's not acceptable.

    The usual excuses cite workload levels, fluctuating demand etc. which I do not see as justifiable and as a matter for junior doctors to take up with their employers.

    So the fact that they have finally grown some and challenged their employers is encouraging.

    In essence, I think junior doctors have a duty to strike for the same reasons that Dr Nick Summerton think they shouldn't.

    Go figure that one out :)

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  • What an aggravatingly unfounded commentary, based on no real experience with on-the-ground JHOs/SHOs. Please actually update your experience by shadowing those that you're accusing of a lack of professionalism prior to engaging in further in-fighting and colleague smearing, that just feeds into the Tory/red-top machine.

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  • Could he actually be any more naïve ?😷

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  • Nick - I am really disappointed with this article. Whilst I admire your individuality and candour, you have got it so, so wrong on this one.

    Your genaralised smears about the professionalism of juniors is like something out of the sun article the other day, highlighting the fact that juniors go on holiday!

    You are repeating the stuck record mantra of old dinosaurs time and time again - I worked 150 hours a week down the coal mine so why can't they?

    I, too, worked these horrific hours and it was mental and phyical torture. I spend a lot of time with GP trainees in my role as a Programme Director and I am more concerned about them burning out through over caring and over achievement than being unprofessional. You have provided no basis for your assertions.

    You may wish to reflect why the juniors have so much support from GPs, consultants, nurses and HCAs. It is because we are all sick to death of the way this government is treating us and the juniors have the balls to do something about it.

    Let's hope the GPC follows suit at the end of this month.

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  • I assume this chap is a certain age given his comments and his NICE-ness. If so, how can he possibly say we had "dialogue". We had slave labour...that's what we had. Dialogue is a two-way communication. Government always wants unilateral imposition and, at last, there is the bravery and determination to oppose this. Yes, it is sad that it has come to this but it does when faced with unreasonable intransigence. I suppose our other favourite, Prof Field, is also having paroxysms.

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  • Dr Summerton - you can only have a dialogue if the other person is willing to talk.

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  • Dr Summerton may have worked over-long hours in "his" day but that is not a sign of professionalism. neither did talking to the Government correct that form of exploitation, European legislation was far more influential. Maybe not for much longer....

    There is nothing unprofessional about the junior Dr's, neither is there anything unprofessional about Mr Hunt. Our Junior Doctors are professionals who use science and understanding in order to help the public get and keep well. Mr Hunt is a professional who uses anecdote and misunderstanding (such as the multiply determined clinical "weekend effect") in order to help the Conservatives get and keep power. If Mr Hunt were prepared to listen he might hear what is being said.

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  • Internet Profile of Dr NS (staying focused)
    "Current areas of focus:
    - The relevance of Greco-Roman medicine to modern clinical practice. A TV programme is currently being planned and two new papers have recently been published"
    Relevance: Slaves are not allowed to strike.

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  • I am a GP of the same era as Dr Summerton. I find his lack of insight into the working conditions of the present generation of doctors and his paucity of empathy quite unbelievable. Is he totally unaware of the hours they work and the intensity of that work with few breaks and little time for a meaningful family life. If his patients were being treated like this by their employers he would probably be fighting their corner. Why then is he denigrating his hospital colleagues for fighting for their rights of a decent wage for their level of responsibility, knowledge and experience and also protecting their own health. High levels of Responsibility without the power to negotiate your conditions of employment ( one sided contract which can be imposed ) is a short cut to an early death. But then that is Jeremy's ultimate goal the death of the NHS by a thousand lashes. Then he can blame the doctors and nurses and bring in the private Giants
    Dr Summerton get off your high horse and try to walk in the shoes of today's junior doctors you will find it very different from the 70's when you trained. Many more interventions available and more IT hoops to jump through.
    I really am ashamed to call you a colleague

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  • Oh, sure, chat about it all with government and that should fix the problem. Negotiate with Jeremy Hunt, influenced by Letwin, Tory Strategist who recommends the NHS be abolished? I'm a GP now 60y but still doing 2 days a week because we cannot find a replacement for the previous senior partner, let alone me. But collecting pension and income pushes me into the income bracket where I lose personal allowance and therefore effectively would pay 60% tax. The work is very hard, with a high risk of complaint fuelled by government stoked expectation. I haven't had resilience training. Hard work + high risk is entirely incompatible with a 60% tax take; no wonder doctors of my vintage leave asap. I shall soon. I have had young aspirants attach to the practice to sample GP work and their possible future; my advice has been not with a barge pole. Anything but medicine unless you relish being administered by bureaucrats and sly/thieving politicians. Vocation is a much abused term by those seeking to manipulate, IMHO.

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