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Independents' Day

I'm having to start my medical career early - and I need Government support

Dr Stephen Naulls 

I hung up the phone and breathed a heavy sigh. My friend, a recently-qualified GP forced into performing almost-exclusive telephone consultations because of the Covid-19 pandemic, had called to check in with me. Recent developments in the health service were having a detrimental impact on both of our wellbeings.

It had been two days since health secretary Matt Hancock had announced to the nation that final-year medical students would be starting early on the wards as doctors. Bewildered by the announcement, the sentiment amongst most of my peers was one of nervousness, tempered by frustration. If we were starting early on the wards, when was he planning on telling us?

This frustration was dwarfed, however, by that of seeing my colleagues’ pleas for adequate PPE seemingly falling on deaf ears. As one of the thousands of newly-qualified doctors ready to imminently join the workforce, I echo the calls for urgent Government action. There is currently little confidence among healthcare workers that there is a well-established supply chain of PPE capable of making its way through to the frontline, nor that it will be of a sufficient standard once it arrives. Bolstering our workforce with thousands of recruits will prove redundant without providing them with sufficient protection.

Without support, protection and inductions, we risk ruining a new generation of doctors’ morale 

Protection from the virus physically needs to be matched with appropriate support mentally. Starting your foundation training in ordinary circumstances can prove gruelling. Doing so amid a global pandemic brings with it the likelihood that many new doctors such as myself will succumb to moral injury.

We must all be given comprehensive inductions. Senior support needs to remain available and be easy to access. Appropriate safeguards and working protections must continue to apply. Without these things, we risk ruining a new generation of doctors’ morale from the outset of our careers.

All of this occurs within the context that the first cherished members of our NHS family, heroes working on the frontline, have sadly died from Covid-19. In the coming months and years as the health service recovers from the scathing impact of the virus, it is healthcare workers who will continue to bear the scars of working on the frontline, and the memory of those we have lost who will persist in our consciousness.

My friend’s call made me feel supported and valued. I know thousands of similar interactions will have taken place over the previous days and weeks - a chat over a cup of tea, a joke at the end of a difficult night shift, an offer to talk if it all feels too much. All visible human moments of kindness hidden amongst the turmoil caused by a microscopic enemy. I have no doubt that NHS staff will support one another as we always have done. Now, the Government needs to do the same.

Dr Stephen Naulls is a newly-qualified junior doctor, starting work in London

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Readers' comments (21)

  • NHS will pull together on the character and goodwill of our peers but as for a satisfying and rewarding career - don't kid yourself you'll get either in the NHS. Finish your year then move away and find a happy life overseas actually being appreciated, respected and enjoy being a real Doctor or stay here being persecuted, belittled and filling in more and more forms for less and less money, fight for a few weeks holiday per year when you actually want to take them and don't expect much of a pension by the time the Tories have finished with you.
    If this is how a government treat it's staff at the time of a global pandemic with inadequate PPE (all those who complain all over the UK can't all be wrong….) do you honestly believe it will be better once we come out the other side of this hell?

    Run away as fast as you can.

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  • Is this whole thing going to drive doctors away from the health service at an increasing rate or make more stay?

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  • any one with a brain should avoid nhs

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  • twelve rules for the newly qualified:
    1 - don't expect any thanks, it will be a nice surprise when you actually get some
    2 - never, ever, inject anything into anyone unless you personally drew it up
    3 - if you are in any doubt about a course of action, STOP, take a step back fpr a second and think "is this really a sensible thing to do"
    4 - document everything - if a handwritten note, always include the time (some lawyer WILL try and stitch you up)
    5 - like in marriage - when you're wrong, admit it; when you're right shut up.
    6 - if attending a sudden/suspicious death "keep your hat on your head, keep your hands in your pockets, and keep your mouth shut"
    7 - court/coroners inquests - "dress up, stand up, speak up, shut up", only answer questions - never blurt out a comment however much you're provoked
    8 - remember - the government's job is to get as much out of you for as little as they can get away with.
    9 - look at the list of forthcoming MPTS hearing frequently, to see what other people have been caught doing wrong (apparently)
    10 - remember Bawa-Garba, say those two words every single morning before you go to work, and don't let the system's inadequacies trap you.
    11 - never, ever, EVER, trust a politician.
    12 - keep a copy of Rudyard Kipling's poem IF nearby at all times.

    just a few thoughts from someone who has been doing it 45 years !!

    good luck !

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  • I'm putting out a different view. I feel a different stress at the moment. This is not a bad stress. I feel my energies are directed to something that is important and has some value.

    I hate QOF, CQC and appraisals. I like helping patients and making decisions that may save lives. This should be an exciting time to be a new doctor. My own risk of succumbing from COVID-19 is far higher than your own. The likelihood is that health professionals will be exposed to this virus.

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  • In this age of trillion pound nuclear submarines, we lose doctors at the front line because of lack of very inexpensive protection. Who should look after you in the NHS ? Surely Trusts have a moral and legal duty to provide a safe working environment. But, as Dr Jenkins points out Bawa Garba did not have the staff nor the equipment to function, but in an English court of law, it is the doctor's fault.
    Neither the the DOH nor the Trusts protect you and even thought the GMC says they take into account exceptional and extreme working conditions, the BG case shows quite the opposite. So please, please look after yourself and if you can find a less toxic country, please leave, for your sanity.

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  • Do only completely disillusioned Drs post here? Since the covid19 pandemic I've never had so many patients thank me and tell me to look after myself. Meanwhile neighbours applaud NHS staff weekly while we enjoy fantastic job security. Yes it's a hard time to be starting out as a Dr. You do need to look after yourself. The thanks you get will be from your patients.

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  • Medicine IS the best job in the world, the NHS is amazing.....

    Otherwise it could not have withstood underfunding, over”management” and political machinations.

    Make friends, make memories, keep relationships.

    Do the job on your terms, be prepared to walk... and watch your back.

    Good luck

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  • Cobblers


    I know its only a week but in reality probably two, allowing for deadlines etc. Any chance of a progress report from Dr Stephen Naulls?

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  • I love millennials. Lol. Millennials Succumbing to moral injury. I love it. For the coming year let your first priority and prime directive be this: Do not die. The other stuff is less important.

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