So my Facebook feed last weekend and indeed for the whole of this week has been completely filled with my colleagues pictures of being ‘at work’ last weekend.
This weekend I was not at work because I do not officially work at the weekends, but while I might not seeing patients, I have and continue to spend many a weekend preparing material to train my colleagues and medical trainees and medical students. Interestingly we did actually trial weekend working for a limited period of time – not doctors though. However success was limited – if staff are working at the weekend but not replaced in the working week when the rest of the team are present, then this is doomed to fail. I am not sure about the exact figures either but I am recall that the patient footfall was not as great as predicted. However, I am sure it come round again – it always does.
Anyway I digress – even though it has been 4 years since my last on call – I remember very well the dedication my colleagues and I had and still have to the job. There is simply no such thing as 9 – 5 in medicine. Even now I am hurtling towards to my community job to be seated at my desk at 8am. I will not get paid for this extra hour at work, neither will their be much recognition but I have a sense of duty to complete as much work as possible. I will not leave at 5pm on the dot further encroaching on my personal time. However I do not mind, this is what I signed up for and I willingly do it when it means supporting my patients.
It is understandable why thousands of doctors have been upset, insulted and inflamed at Jeremy Hunt’s assertion that we are a body of lazy, money-grabbing individuals with no sense of vocation. I beg to differ. Any doctor worth her/his salt knows that when you start an ‘on call’ shift – you finish when the work is done. Perhaps one might hand over the bleep to the next person but you stay back to finish paperwork, place that tricky cannula, chase those bloods, write up that prescription, speak the family of the sick child you admitted 12 hours previously. One can never just down tools and leave. Why not ? Because this is about people, this is about relationships – however brief with people that come and seek our help at one of the most vulnerable times of their lives. This is about trust. This is about teamwork and dedication. I challenge Jeremy to join any acute team for a week of night shifts and see how he feels at the end of (bearing in mind he has absolutely no responsibility for patients at all and can disappear at any point that he wishes).
I do not think Jeremy understands what we sacrifice when we work. Yes we have chosen this and we understand what we have signed up for. That’s why is so malicious and yes I will use that word malicious to assume that doctors are anything other than dedicated. There are always bad apples in every job but we are not referring to them – they are not in the equation. From day one of medical school the sense of duty to the public and your patients is drilled in mercilessly. Your patient always comes first. I cannot think of many professions where you would come into work and not eat, drink, or use the toilet for 13 hours straight.
Chose the right battle to fight. Jeremy Hunt needs to understand that – yes we too would like a service that runs efficiently all of the time, but the difference is, that as front line workers we also understand the infrastructure that it would need to allow this to work effectively. A simple thing, in my arena of work, – employ an extra doctor to see more patients and bring down a waiting list. Great , x number of patients seen but if there is not extra administrative support those extra x letters and onward referrals sit in a pile waiting to be processed by a secretary who has just had his/her workload increased overnight. The same thing in the hospital – more doctors – more patients seen but we need more staff to carry out procedures/investigations generated by these consultations. The whole picture needs to be considered – doctors do not work in isolation. We are supported by and support a network of talented and dedicated professionals and this should be recognised.