Public health doctor

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Public health doctors win understanding for action

Public health doctors took industrial action – although the definitions of urgent and emergency care are not as clear-cut as in acute specialities.

Cheshire and Merseyside Health Protection Unit public health consultant Richard Jarvis
Dr Jarvis cancelled a speech at the British Dental Association due to the day of action.

He dealt with a small measles outbreak in a group of travellers and screened phone calls and emails to ensure urgent and emergency work was not missed. But other, non-urgent, work was postponed, including continuing professional development and general administration.

Dr Jarvis stressed that other staff at Cheshire and Merseyside Health Protection Unit had been encouraging over the day of action. He said: ‘There has been widespread support from other professions in the unit, particularly the nursing staff. They have been wearing stickers and showing their support.’

The BMA public health medicine committee co-chair said he felt the day of action had gone well at the health protection unit. He said: ‘We have been able to communicate the depth of feeling about the issue at stake without it directly impacting on patients.’

‘We are confident that urgent and emergency measures have taken place and the action has not otherwise inconvenienced the public.’

Stockport Primary Care Trust director of public health Stephen Watkins
Dr Watkins said around three-quarters of medically qualified people in his department took industrial action. Although doctors came in, they only did what was urgent or immediately necessary and postponed non-urgent work.

Dr Watkins said he did work that could not be postponed, and that could have had an impact on health if it was not done.

The BMA public health medicine committee member, who is also on the BMA council, maintained there was widespread understanding about the day of action. He said: ‘I think people were very supportive and a number of people actually said to me we were going to ask you to do this but we won’t.’

On the morning of the action, cakes with the words BMA 21.06.12 were brought into the departmental kitchen and staff were invited to show their support by having a piece.

Dr Watkins explained: ‘It was just a way to mark what we were doing in a non-confrontational way and a way that gave people an opportunity to show support.’