Over the last few months there have been multiple talks between the BMA (British Medical Association) and the government over the pay Junior Doctors are receiving and hours being worked. The initial plans for ‘seven day care’ sparked worry about Doctor fatigue and pay fairness. Sincere Law looks at the risk of increased medical negligence as a result of longer working hours.
Junior Doctors protesting the changes Made by the Health Minister: Source
Doctors have incredible pressure in their daily life to look after all in their care, and do so with professionalism; to the point of being entrusted with people’s lives. Given the time span one is required to train for in order to simply graduate to a fully qualified practitioner is usually 10 years at a minimum, 99% of the time we can more than trust our health to these experts.
A Junior Doctor (about whom the current debate is raging) are usually university graduates who have entered into their training. There are 3 stages of education they follow, all of which have a variety of building blocks to piece together a competent, fully qualified doctor.
A Junior Doctor’s Training Timeline
Foundation Training: This is the first stage following University. This training usually takes place over 2 years. In each year, a trainee will be building practical, hands on knowledge by completing work experience in a range of environments from GP’s surgeries to A&E and anything in-between. When these years are completed, the trainee will expect to demonstrate a high level of skills in managing their patient’s needs according to their ailment.
Specialty Training: A Junior Doctor will then move on to either a 3 year GP training qualification or a 4 to 6 year speciality training qualification. Both of these offer a much more in depth learning experience into the practice areas required to either be a GP or a specialist.
Consultancy/GP: Following their furthered education down a more specific path, the next step up is to a more senior level and the final stage of becoming a qualified Doctor. The student will sit postgraduate exams following their route down either speciality training or a general practice certificate to be able to graduate into the position of GP or Consultant; making themselves at home in your local medical centre or hospital.
With so much training time, Doctors are widely regarded as very trustworthy and valuable members of society. What then is fronting the decision to announce strikes from those considered beacons of morality for many?
Junior Doctors take on average, over 10 years to graduate to being a GP or Consultant: Source
30% Cuts & 7 Day NHS Deals
While the latest unrest has been squarely down to a recent proposal by the government to change the value of working hours; there has been conflicts previously (2012) to extend Doctor working hours and operate the NHS in full over 7 days. That proposal was met with derision as the argument was that not enough funding for new Doctors would stretch already overworked and overtired staff.
The most recent decision to strike comes in the form of proposed wage cuts in which unsociable hours would be changed from regular night time hours to after 7pm on a Saturday until 7am on a Monday. The change would effectively count a Saturday shift which lasts until 7pm as the same as a weekday shift.
Junior Doctor Argues against the plans: Sky News
The cuts, matched against a deficit of funding for the NHS would again spur the debate as to Doctors working tired and requiring to work longer hours for the same wages they as previously had; in this, the issue of medical negligence lies.
Tired Staff & Your Safety
The argument from the Doctors is that nobody wants to risk patient health when it is avoidable and the recent plans from the government endanger that. The need to work longer hours due to staff shortages could easily see your local A&E department stretched with Doctors being asked to do more than they can handle, seriously opening up the potential for operations to contain errors of judgement. The potential rise in complications and fatalities is not something the general public, the government, or Doctors themselves would be willing to risk.
As a result of vigorous campaigning by Junior Doctors, the most recent strike planned for January was called off just before the deadline to allow negotiations to resume with Health Minister Jeremy Hunt. While the issue isn’t settled yet, everybody has been vocal in their opinions on the strike and the reasoning behind it. Here is a selection of your thoughts.
— Bernadette Meaden (@BernaMeaden) January 12, 2016
#JuniorDoctorsStrike seems contract is false economy. More hours, tired doctors = > clinical negligence claims & more damages to be paid
— Geoff Silva (@SilvaGeoff) January 12, 2016
Anything more unpatriotic and selfish than the #JuniorDoctorsStrike today? If so, @ me!
— Penegal (@penegal90) January 12, 2016
While there is no definite answer or resolution at this stage, Sincere Law, the entire law community and everybody involved will all be asking the same questions; what can be done to ensure that Doctors get a fair pay, but also ensure patients are safe and well cared for? The answers lie within the disputing parties.