Doctors on strike

Plans have been made by the British government to rob doctors of their pension. After a major overhaul of our pension scheme in 2008, and despite the fact that our contributions bring in almost £2billion/year to the treasury, the government now says that the scheme is not viable and they want to take more from us. Junior doctors like myself are being forced to pay more over the course of our careers, only to get a lot less on retirement than what older doctors are drawing from their pensions now. We are being asked to work till a ripe old age of 68 as well, which will mean that we have a fewer number of healthy life-years to enjoy this meagre retirement fund. Doctors across the country are naturally outraged, and despite negotiations, the powers that be have refused to back down. We have been let down.

The British Medical Association recently polled all its members to find out what our views are on the possibility of taking industrial action. Of the 12000 votes cast by doctors all across the country, 92% are in agreement for industrial action to be taken. And so, for the first time in 40 years, doctors in the UK are going on strike. We are not asking for preferential treatment, we just want to be treated fairly. It is not about the money anymore; it is about principle, about rejecting injustice.

As doctors, our hippocratic oath dictates that we will “first, do no harm.” As such, patient safety remains a top priority through it all. All urgent and emergency care will still be provided on the day of industrial action, but all elective operation lists, non-urgent outpatient consultations and GP appointments will be postponed. Since the strong mandate has been given for industrial action to be taken, I have heard people comment on how the public is going to hate doctors even more. I find that upsetting. We doctors are human too, we have lives to lead, mortgages to pay, children to bring up, and retirement to plan for. Just as you don’t want to have to work longer, pay more and receive less, we don’t want that for ourselves too. Just as you feel you have the right to take industrial action as a teacher, or an immigration officer, or an engineer, we too have the right to take action when we are wronged. Why do you hate us just because it inconveniences you for one day? Do the sacrifices that we make for you everyday not count for anything anymore? Don’t accuse us of being “money-faced,” it is not about the money anymore; it is about principle, about rejecting injustice.

This is the first time in my short doctoring career hitherto seeing doctors take action in retaliation to unjust treatment. Even when I was a medical student, I have always felt that doctors are too passive and conciliatory. Perhaps it all stems from our history of humiliatory training, when it is acceptable for consultants to insult and shame you publicly, telling you how useless you are as you hang your head in self-reproach. We get treated badly, but never seem too keen to make a fuss about the treatment we have received. Doctors are being bullied all the time. Managers tell us which patients will have their operations and when, they tell us how our theatre lists will be ordered and run, they pressurise doctors to discharge patients so someone else can get a bed in the hospital, they reprimand you for having a chocolate or a drink at the nursing station, they accuse you of being lazy and uncontactable when all you’ve done is go for your first meal of the day at 4pm, they take away our doctors’ offices, take away our on-call bedrooms, take away tea & coffee provision in theatres… People just don’t look after their doctors anymore.

I saw a short piece of writing that one of my friends posted up on her facebook wall recently. It struck a cord in my heart, so I will share it with you here:

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