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Junior doctor contract row has brought us together



These days you don’t have to look far to see doctors pouring out their heart and soul. Social media platforms have of late been flooded with blog posts, statuses and calls to actions. The usually quiet, stoic and reserved types are out in force. I write blogs, and on the spectrum of emotionally-stunted to emotional wreck, I have always been closer to the emotional wreck side. But these people who are sharing their stories and personal struggles aren’t.

I have lost count of the number of touching accounts I have read. The dad who leaves his young family in the early hours of the morning and doesn’t see them until they are in bed. Although he is tired, he wakes up the next day to do the same thing again, compromising his quality of life for the greater good of his patients. He doesn’t want a medal and never went into medicine for a big applause or constant recognition. However the junior doctor contract has changed something.

At no other point in my six years as a medical student and in my short time as an F1 have I seen such support.

Relentless efforts to draw attention to the new contract are now making waves in the medical community and the mainstream media thankfully has not gone unnoticed. We even had our moment of glory on BBC Question time when Dr Sundeep Grewal, a medical registrar, did the medical community proud when he highlighted the issues affecting junior doctors. The noise that erupted from my house was aggressive applause and a feeling of pure pride. There is a unanimous feeling that the new contract is an assault to patient safety that undermines the work of already hard working doctors who already work over their scheduled hours to provide the standard of care their patients need and deserve.

We have already had many articles (brilliantly written might I add) about what action the medical community might take and my phone is constantly buzzing about a new development in this saga, if it’s not another Facebook update from the ever growing ‘junior doctor contract’ group it’s some breaking news being tweeted about.

Unsurprisingly, giving the situation, I am seeing no talk of the positive effects of all of this. But if my observations are correct, there are subtle change and in the interest of reporting some good news (at least in a while) I would like to draw your attention to them.

Breaking news: we are talking to each other.

Just the other day, a consultant who I didn’t know walked into the doctors’ office where I was ploughing through my discharge summaries and asked me, ‘So, F1, are you going to strike? I think you should. Apparently people in Costa earn more than you guys.’

I asked him, ‘Will you stand by us if we do?’ and he smiled back, ‘Of course we will’.

A few days ago, when I stayed on for a while after work to deal with a sick patient, the nurses all started talking about how many hours I worked and about how ridiculous my hourly rate was given the extra hours that I (and my other F1 colleagues) did. Then they started talking about the junior doctor contract. They cared and they showed it – it was nice. It brought back some sort of team spirit. For those few minutes in the late hours of the day we were all united with a common hatred and it was strangely bonding!

At no other point in my six years as a medical student and in my short time as an F1 have I seen such support.

Even the Facebook group is all playing nice. No one has an agenda, it’s not ‘your rubbish team making that referral’ or ‘that GP’ or ‘that surgeon’. We have one common goal. We might not all agree on how to reach it yet, but this talk of our NHS and our contract has fostered a subtle behavioural change. Regardless of the results of this contract, I for one vote for that to stay!

Dr Salma Aslam is an FY1 doctor in the North-East