Last week, junior doctors in England voted overwhelmingly in support of industrial action, including strike action, in protest at the proposals for the new junior doctor contract.
Let me repeat that. Last week, junior doctors voted to strike.
This week, the social media maelstrom appears focussed on strike day activities. I’m not sure that’s right.
In the ballot I voted yes/yes. I crossed the boxes as soon as the letter arrived through my letter box, and then sat and watched it for a week and a half. I posted it at the last possible moment.
Last week, my consultant asked me whether or not I planned to strike. He made it clear it was my decision, and whatever that decision was, the consultant body as a whole would support it. He is definitely one of the good guys. It has taken me a week to reply.
I am good at making decisions. So why has this one been so hard to make?
When I go to work in the morning, my aim is to make people better. Sometimes I can’t do that, but then my aim is to control their disease for as long as possible. Sometimes I can’t do that, and then my aim is to make whatever remaining time they have as good as possible.
I believe that Mr Hunt’s new contract will stand in the way of doing that, and not just for me, for everybody. This contract, for the junior doctors, but in time, the consultant contract for them (and me in a few years’ time), for the nurses, the health care assistants, the radiographers…
I desperately hoped there would be negotiation. There wasn’t. Then I hoped for mediation, but it looks like that’s gone out of the window too. I do still hold out a little hope.
But my colleagues and I, we are sad about this. Disheartened about the state of the NHS, and gutted to watch the juniors, the medical students, the kids at school, get offered a poor deal. And so, with heavy hearts, we will strike, to make a stand and open up a channel for communication.
When I see the outpouring of emotion on social media, I do understand. I feel strongly about the cause.
I also feel concerned. We are fighting for our jobs here, for the right to treat every single patient, regardless of income, past medical history, or socio-economic status, with the same excellent care.
This is not a jolly. This is not fun. This is also not a time for charity. This is cold, hard reality, and it cannot be dressed up any other way.
Please, if you want to give blood, give it. If you want to teach children CPR, do it. You don’t need a contract dispute to improve the society around you. But let’s save the strike day for striking. And if it all gets called off halfway through, let’s go back to work with our heads held high, knowing we haven’t let anybody down.