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Thursday, June 13, 2024

‘We’re not worth 26% less’ – British junior doctors take to picket lines

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Junior doctors on picket lines across Britain have said that they have to work extra shifts just to pay energy bills and told of their concerns for paying for basic home repairs.

One medic said that the public would not want to be treated by a doctor who was “worrying about how they’re how to pay their bills”.

Others expressed frustration over the claim that baristas earn more money than the entry-level salary for junior medics.

“Junior doctors are the people who are there when your babies are born, the people who are there when your heart stops if you need resuscitation,” one said.

Speaking outside the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, junior doctor Shivam Sharma told PA: “Junior doctors have faced a massive 26 per cent real-terms pay cut over the last 15 years. We are not worth 26 per cent less, we don’t do 26 per cent less work, we don’t see 26 per cent less patients. In fact, the work has only got harder.

“Currently, 50 per cent of junior doctors are struggling to pay rent, mortgage and bills, and 50 per cent are having to borrow money from friends and family just to make ends meet.

“If you or I were going into hospital critically unwell, we couldn’t want our junior doctor to be worrying about how they’re going to pay their bills.

“So something has to be done – we have to value doctors here if we are going to keep them.

Paul Smith, a first-year surgical trainee at the Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “I started in my training post in August last year and I’ve spent £3,000 on course fees, professional fees and exams. We can claim some tax back, but I’ve still got to pay that upfront.

“Me and my partner managed to save up enough money to buy a house locally and we found a hole in the roof last week.

“We’re genuinely struggling to find the money to fix that at the moment.”

Rebecca Lissman (29), a trainee in obstetrics and gynaecology, said that “all that junior doctors are asking is to be paid a wage that matches our skill set”.

Speaking from the picket line at University College Hospital, on Euston Road in London, she told the PA news agency: “I still want to work for a service that’s free at the point of use when I’m a fully qualified consultant. We want a health service that works for everyone and that’s why I’m here today.

“In my field, we are working in surgery but we are also supporting people on the hardest days of our lives. Around a third of people drop out before they finish their training because it is so taxing.

“We can’t give people the service they deserve and see them as quickly as they need because we are so stretched.

“I want to be in work, looking after people, getting trained. I don’t want to be out here striking, but I feel that I have to.”

Striking junior doctor Martin Whyte, on the picket line in Newcastle, said the public understood the need for the industrial action.

The paediatric registrar worked night shifts at the Royal Victoria Infirmary this weekend where the average wait for A&E was six hours.

He said: “We used to say anything above four hours was a breach, but we have missed that target so overwhelmingly now, it’s almost not worth counting.

“These systems are failing chronically and I think the public understand that.

“They know steps have to be taken to address that, and that starts with better retention of staff and for that you need better pay. We are seeing a lot of attrition from the workforce.”

The 36-year-old said newly qualified doctors used to talk about the specialism they hoped to work in, adding: “Now when I talk to them they say ‘I’m going to go to Australia’, ‘I’m going to go to Canada’, or ‘I’m going to quit medicine all together’, because the pay relative to the work and the intensity and the hours just doesn’t add up.”

Melissa, who did not wish to give her surname, said junior doctors felt “worthless” due to continuous real-term pay cuts.

Speaking on a picket line at Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham, the 42-year-old said: “A junior doctor who enters their first year (of training) out of medical school is paid £14 an hour, which is quite shocking to most people, and we’ve just recently heard that one of the coffee shop chains is offering slightly more than that.

“Junior doctors are the people who are there when your babies are born, the people who are there when your heart stops if you need resuscitation.

“It’s very frustrating to know that we’ve had such high pay cuts, and because of that, and because of the working conditions, doctors are leaving and my colleagues are thinking about leaving.”

Speaking on a picket line at Leeds General Infirmary, Dr Chris Morris, doctor and British Medical Association rep, said: “It’s really reassuring when members of the public do go past honking their horns, giving us messages of support. It reemphasises why we’re doing this.”

“I don’t think anyone has taken this decision lightly. It’s the last thing we want to do as doctors but we feel that we’ve pushed into this decision by the Government.”

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