In light of proposed strikes for 13,000 junior doctors across the UK, this article is an opinion piece by a junior doctor who reflects on the difficulties he has faced since working in the NHS. Post-pandemic, it would be expected that doctors would be valued more as they supported the public through such a tumultuous time but since 2008, junior doctors have faced a pay cut of 26%. The author admits that despite working full-time as a doctor, he still struggles to make ends meet. In recent years, many doctors have left the NHS to work overseas and 89.7% of these doctors blame their leaving on poor pay. This shortage of doctors leads to understaffing and poor working conditions in the NHS, contributing to burnout. With overworked doctors, how can the NHS provide satisfactory healthcare? He goes on to explain why striking is important for the safety and protection of both doctors and patients.
Value of healthcare
One thing this article leads you to consider is the value of healthcare and the value of doctors, not just in monetary terms but within society. Since 2008, as stated in the article, the income of junior doctors has decreased by 26% and tuition fees have also increased drastically. Are junior doctors worth less than they were in 2008? As doctors continue to leave the UK, should the government not prioritise pay restoration and improving working conditions so they can retain the doctors that are still here? How much do we value offering safe and quality healthcare to the public?
Impact of not striking and effects on patient safety
This was a topic discussed in depth in the article and is important to consider. If doctors feel overworked, burnt out and undervalued, how will this impact patient care? According to the IFS, the number of patients on waiting lists may rise as high as 14 million this winter but if there is a shortage of doctors due to many leaving the country or the profession altogether, this will only get worse. It will mean patients are left waiting in A&E or for GP appointments for much longer leading to delayed diagnoses. It will mean doctors are more likely to make mistakes. How else could patients be affected if doctors do not strike for better pay and working conditions?
The current state of the NHS
The NHS is one of the only healthcare systems in the world that is free at the point of access. Although these are the principles that the NHS were built on, without extra funding from the government to invest in the retention of its healthcare workers and better working conditions, how long can the NHS continue functioning in this way. More and more services are no longer being offered on the NHS due to lack of resources and funding, and more and more patients are being forced to turn to private health services to help them. What are the pros and cons to this? Within healthcare, where do you think funding needs to be invested most?
Author: Fateha Khawaja
Editor: Dr Latifa Haque