It has proven to be truly turbulent times for employees of the NHS. Now, I cannot speak for every position but I can definitely see from the perspective of junior / locum doctors because these are the people I deal with on an everyday basis. Without a doubt, the NHS has been a fundamental part of the UK and what it stands for – but what is happening to it and what is the stance of the crop of junior doctors who will be leading the clinical front in the near future?
I have been interviewing doctors for nearly five years. Doctors of all ages, specialties and grades – Clinical Attachment candidates to Consultants. Needless to say, I’m in contact with doctors on a regular basis and I always like to chat about what their thoughts are on the current market and revelations.
Times have changed!
Since the start of the year the opinions that I hear are completely different to those that were expressed 5 years ago; and even a year ago. Junior doctors in particular feel that there is little to no stability in the NHS anymore. They do not know what is coming or going; and to be honest the way that the NHS is going isn’t inspiring them with a lot of confidence – the recent protests are a clear example of this.
There was a time when junior doctors were so sure about what they wanted to do. They knew what they wanted to specialise in and where their career was going to go. It is customary nowadays for junior doctors to complete their two years of Foundation Training and then take a year out (much deserved) before committing another portion of their lives to Core Training.
Who could blame them? You study all through school, through college, go through 5 or 6 years of intense studies at university, then get thrown straight into your 2 year rotation – I think it’s fair to take a break.
However, even through all that – junior doctors still had a decent idea of what they wanted to do. They would use this welcome gap year to blow of some steam, go travelling and supplement their lifestyle with locum work so they can keep in touch with their clinical skills whilst earning.
Let’s fast-forward to today. We are half way through 2017 and I have interviewed in excess of 100 doctors this year. 95% of these doctors are junior doctors who are looking to complete their second year of Foundation Training and take a year out; as per the norm. As the year has gone by and as the changes in the NHS are becoming more frequent, the general opinion of junior doctors has changed.
I used to hear:
“I’m taking a year out… I’ll do some travelling for a month or two… I’ll do a bit of locum work and I’ll be applying for a Training Post and cracking on with my career!”
Now I hear:
“I’ll be taking two years out because I’m not sure what is happening with the NHS… I may not even locum here in the UK, I was thinking of doing a year in Australia/New Zealand/South Africa… Actually I don’t even know if I want to do clinical anymore, I may just go for a research post!”
It’s a stark contrast but unfortunately it’s the cold truth – the way the NHS is going, it is pushing our junior doctors away and in the long run that leads to fewer practicing doctors. Even when taking a year out, doctors would still do locum shifts so we would have a good pool of doctors available on an ad-hoc basis to fill vacancies. However now doctors are choosing to go abroad it drastically dilutes the pool of available doctors. This means further understaffed departments, which leads to existing staff overworking -> this leads directly on to tiredness and exhaustion of doctors -> this of course leads to existing working doctors requesting time off -> which in turn leads to an already understaffed department being more understaffed – see the vicious cycle that’s unfolding?
This is the position we are in and it is the harsh reality that we are facing. Are we going to see a change? Will the “new” government be able to change the way things are being dealt with? Your guess is as good as mine; but I would definitely like to know your thoughts and opinions.
Until next time folks – have a good day