For the first time in decades, and quite reluctantly, to make the point, young doctors in Britain staged a few strikes recently, several weeks' apart, and for a short period only. But strike they did, to make the point.
Having to work a 70-hour week is an absolute scandal, don't they deserve adequate rest and refreshment? Some of the young doctors in London have to work eleven-hour shifts, with only a 20 minute break for refreshment. Dealing with people's ill health is an art, for the best results it needs time to just sit down, have tea, work out some solution, it can't be done as if it's a production line, to continuously keep on attending to patients.
I used to be an interviewer, and I have interviewed many young doctors over the last 15 years to understand their point of view. Most of them always are not happy about having to work 70-hour
weeks. Shouldn't it be less hours, perhaps a maximum of 48 hours a week as per the European Union
direction? Even 48 hours, split over 6 days, is 8 hours a day, that seems to be agreeable to most people, and seems long enough. But 11-hour shifts with only a 20-minute break?
And for what reward? One or two people who had bothered to make some calculations said they were earning £7 per hour or so. For this honourable profession for which they have attended Uni for 5 years, this must not seem a happy outcome, to earn so little at the initial stage, even though the promise of substantial pay seems always available after a few years of practice.
Britain needs more doctors, and if they have a practical schedule of work to their liking, they would certainly perform wonders looking after the health of so many patients, whose number seems to increase each year.
Regarding the Barts N.H.S. Trust here in East London, serving five hospitals, it seems they are first of all on very tight budgets. It seems a truth that the Conservative boroughs seem to receive much more per patient than the Labour boroughs here in the East End. Does the fault lie with how or who requests the funding; or how it is granted? Whipps Cross Hospital, which itself is an old Victorian building much in need of improvements, could do with upgrades at the very least. The buildings nearby, which used to provide accommodation for nurses and doctors, seem to have been closed and deteriorating over the last several years (perhaps five years or so), making the area look bleak with neglect. This is an area where the government could invest some money please, to bring happiness to the people of the East End. It seems they have been overlooked.
If people hear of happy stories from young doctors, that they work a reasonably long 48 hours and are not stretched to serve 70-hour weeks in the N.H.S., perhaps more people may once again consider medicine as a career, and Britain may produce enough doctors to satisfy the needs.
In the past, British hospitals used to have staff canteens, and used to grant people enough breaktimes to rest and enjoy some food before attending to the next batch of patients. Those seem to have been good days. They must have figured out the optimum number of hours most people are able to work, to keep alert and attend to their patients. Such routines are bound to do wonders for the patients' care. We should all care for the people who care, the young doctors.
I hope the Health Minister will read my blog, and see if he can work out something in favour of the hard-pressed young doctors.
(c) Copyright, but may be shared across all media, with acknowledgement.