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We have told the UK Government we say no. No – when we finally make time to see friends on a Saturday afternoon after a busy week of on-calls, that is not a social working hour. No - when we get the occasional opportunity to tuck our kids into bed at 8pm, or sit down to switch off after an evening of academic work at 9pm, they are not social working hours.
You have told us how you feel about normal working hours being extended into those times. You have told us the plate that is being thrust into our hands is unacceptable.
The contract the Government wants to impose is likely to follow the Doctors and Dentists Review Body recommendation of a huge extension of what are considered social working hours, or ‘plain time’, from 7am to 7pm, Monday to Friday, to 7am to 10pm, Monday to Saturday. An increase from 60 to 90 hours.
Far more than half the week, in this analysis, consists of normal hours, with no extra recognition for them. As junior doctors, we accept our busy rotas, we know we might be scheduled to work this Christmas, we might miss our mum’s milestone birthday party. Money cannot replace memories, but we expect fair compensation – that is perfectly reasonable.
Only hours outside of the 90-hour window would class as ‘unsocial’. I value my time at 9pm on a Saturday very differently to 9am on a Wednesday. Working 9pm any evening is unsocial, especially on a Saturday. This was recognised in our current contract, but the contract to be imposed recommends a dilution of the value of our precious time.
If those hours cost the same to the employer, then there is no incentive to keep a similar shift pattern to that which is present, rotas could become more extreme and you may find yourself missing more evenings or Saturdays.
This would mean an overworked, undervalued and demoralised workforce, which is bound to have an effect on the care that patients’ receive, no matter how hard we try to do our best for them.
I can confidently say I love being a junior doctor; it’s a privilege to spend my day (or night!) working hard to help patients through our NHS.
However, I already finish late to ensure my patients receive the best care I can, come home and then have more work to do to maintain my e-portfolio, study, work on quality improvement projects, teaching and research, and soon I’ll be facing exams.
What little time I have left is of great value to me; something which is far from recognised by the contract to be imposed. We all know that being a doctor extends into our life, and means we already miss important occasions for our loved ones, (unless you somehow manage to wrangle a swap).
As I look on towards the rest of my junior doctor years, imagining those being considered as normal social expected working times, my heart sinks, and the future looks bleak.
Morale is already low.
BMA junior doctor representatives from across the UK have joined together to discuss the views you have been sending us about the threatened contract imposition, and decide the way forward.
Your clear steer has led us to make this decision; we must protect our workforce, and ultimately our patients. Industrial action is something no-one would consider lightly, and having come to the conclusion that it is safer to take industrial action than to allow this contract to be proceed is something that should speak volumes.
Junior doctors, we must unite and stand firm together.
Melody Redman is a foundation 2 doctor in York
Read more about the #juniorcontract