As a patient; as a relative; as a carer; as a member of the public who might need the NHS, why should you care about the new junior doctor contract?
Because it will damage the care that you receive as a patient.
The irony of a Health Secretary who declares that he wants healthcare to be “more human” whilst simultaneously imposing a junior contract that dehumanises front-line staff is impressive. The argument is that the “evidence” shows that patient care will be improved by our working longer shifts, by designating longer hours as “plain time”, and by removing the obligation for employers to monitor our hours. Leaving aside the soundbite that isn’t based in fact (for a clearer review of the often mis-quoted seven day services paper, I suggest reading this excellent summary) there is a wealth of evidence that a happy, well-cared for workforce is more efficient.
Does this apply to healthcare?
We know that tired doctors make mistakes.
We know that repeatedly being in stressful situations without the chance to off-load and regroup leads to compassion fatigue and loss of empathy.
And we know that emotional competence has a direct impact on clinical care
I always thought that part of being a professional, a doctor, was the ability to separate work from my personal life; to live in the bubble and block myself off. It doesn’t work like that.
A few years ago, I hit a particularly low patch. I was adamant that it wasn’t going to affect my work – if anything, I worked harder and harder to make sure that I was available for my patients. I smiled at work (all the time); I said “yes, of course” to every task; I convinced myself that I could separate work and “out-of-work”.
And then one of my patients told me I looked sad all the time and gave me a hug. Don’t work with children if you’re trying to hide anything – they see through everything. She was seven and she was dying, and she had time to see what none of my colleagues (or I) wanted to see – I was not being “her” doctor.
I see so many conversations on social media about mistakes made when we didn’t listen; when we didn’t take the time to pay attention; when we lost the ability to care as professionals. When we stopped being human.
We should all care about #juniorcontract. Because we deserve healthcare that treats us all like human beings