“Undervalued, undermined and taken advantage of” are just few of the words newly qualified Doctor Kerrin Vijay used to describe his feelings towards the NHS’s new proposed contract for 2016.
Doctors across the UK are furious over the new contracts the Government have proposed, threatening to cut the number of hours that are classed as unsociable, meaning Doctors will earn a lower pay for evening and weekend work.
40,000 junior doctors stood with Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt for strikes in a bid to change the new contract, and just hours before the strike was to begin, Hunt announced in the Commons, of a potential agreement that had been reached between the British Medical Association (BMA) and the government.
However, with strikes being delayed until January 13th, Junior Doctors outtakes on the matter are still angry. Kerrin Vijay who graduated from the University of Liverpool in the summer of 2015 has been working as a junior doctor since August.
“Going into medicine, I was aware that to be financially well off that it would not be the best option, but from a personal perspective in caring and job quality, I knew that it was the best option for me. High grades were required to initially enter medical school, and in comparison to other occupations with the same meeting grades, for example, law the pay is far lower for Doctors. We also had to study for 5-6 years accumulating more debt and a lower earning potential.”
Although he describes the job as being very demanding with often great deals of stress and unsociable hours, he promotes the work as being ‘enjoyable, rewarding and gratifying in terms of meeting and helping improve patients in their quality of life.’
The proposals to increase the maximum working hours per week has also raised concerning issues by the BMA, claiming that patients will be at a higher risk being taken care of over-worked and tired staff.
“I am in favour of the strikes because although the pay is low for the hours we do now, we don’t complain because it is the care of the patient that is most important. However, now they want to increase our hours for even less money than what we are being paid now. Being a Doctor holds a big responsibility of care for the wellbeing of our patients. Being overworked and feeling exhausted can lead to mistakes – mistakes that we can’t afford to take. If you make the wrong call you will be accounted for. We would not only be risking our career, but our patients’ life is at threat from silly mistakes that could be avoided.”
Dr Vijay often feels tired and unable to unwind after his long pattern of shifts recurring from day to night. The long hours have already taken effect on him as he explains how he fainted on shift a few weeks ago, resulting in him being sent home. He further explains of the difficulty from working 9am -9:30pm shifts with no allocated lunch, sometimes having to eat while working and unpaid overtime on some days too.
Dr Vijay believes that the strikes were to only send out a message. He said: “We have an important job to do. We didn’t want to strike, however, it was as a last resort to get the message out there and be heard in what we’re trying to do.” He hopes that attention has been paid to this matter and that the public and government understand the changes, with hopes that the contract will be renegotiated for better patient safety and an improved working life of Doctors.
From April 2016, a junior doctor earning £23,000 a year, equates to £442.30 a week. If they stick to 56 hours a week, that is just £7.89 an hour. As of April next year, ikea staff pay £7.85/hour, Aldi £8.40/hr, Lidl and Morrison’s £8.20/hour. After 5 long, hard working years of studying in medical school, to be earning the same yearly salary as they could stacking tins of beans in the local Aldi store; do our doctors deserve more credit than this? Why not work less hours in the local supermarket, not have to pay £420 to the General Medical Council and save money on paying the professional indemnity insurance and BMA fees. Why stay a Doctor in the NHS?
By Sophie Vijay