Fat Sister’s a specialist Registrar in a busy South London hospital. Like every doctor I’ve ever met she takes the oath she made to ‘do no harm’ very seriously. Her day and night shifts are always long, she often doesn’t get a chance to eat, and her patients stay on her mind long after she’s left the hospital. A few weeks ago, late at night she posted this on her Facebook page:
“14 hour day. Just getting in. Back up at 6am for another one. Too tired for dinner. Too preoccupied with work to sleep. Haven’t seen my husband awake since Monday and probably won’t do till Friday night. I would address a witty comment to Mr Hunt but frankly I don’t have the energy, but if I did it would be very cutting.”
Seeing this made my heart ache, for her personally but also for all the junior doctors and healthcare professionals working tirelessly within the NHS at a time when it’s under extreme pressure. It’s pressure caused by the ideologically driven decisions of politicians, by savage cuts to both the NHS and social care budgets, and by the stealthy privatisation of the most profitable aspects of the service.
Photo: Fat Sister
The contract the government is trying to impose on junior doctors is a symptom of a wider disregard, both for the NHS and the people who give their lives to it.
Today, for the second time, Fat Sister and her colleagues are going on strike. We need to be clear that this isn’t just a battle over an inhumane and unworkable contract – it’s part of a bigger battle to save our National Health Service.
Fat Sister’s been dreading this second strike. All she wants is the support she needs do her job and look after her patients. I don’t imagine there’s a single junior doctor who wants to be on the picket line. In a text she sent this morning, she was clearly afraid their action is in vain, that the system she cares so deeply about is in a critical condition, and that the people with the power to save it are choosing not to.
At some point it’s likely we’ll all have trusted a junior doctor with our lives or the lives of someone we care about. Now we must trust in their expert judgement and demand that they’re listened to. They’re striking for all of us, and we have a duty to show them that they’re not alone. There are things we can all do to help and you can find out more here.
For Fat Sister, today’s strike fits entirely with the oath she took to do no harm. It’s time our politicians made the same commitment!