Today I went with my local doctors to join other doctors and their families from all across the country in a mass lobby of parliament - each constituency sent representatives to individually meet their MPs to discuss the future of medical training. As a doctors wife I joined senior consultants and "junior" doctors to talk to my MP.
Three key points
* Not enough training posts. The reduction in training posts for doctors is squeezing out thousands of doctors - 32,000 doctors applied for 20,000 jobs the process has been a fiasco and many of our best younger doctors are set to leave the country
* Dumbing down in training. By shortening training years and embrassing the European Working Time Directive doctors will be less well trained in the future. Today an orthopaedic surgeon would receive 22,000 hours of training before becoming a consultant, in the future it will be just 6,000 hours - imagine hearing that pilots can do a 1/3 less accompanied flights before going "solo". Whose plane would you like to be on? and whose operating table? If the doctors of tomorrow are not as well trained as my husband and his friends were, we will have worse care in our hospitals in the future.
* Patient safety on change over day. If the process goes ahead as planned 22,000 doctors will change jobs on 1st August this year. That is every junior doctor in training in every hospital in the country. Many doctors will not even know where the reception is in their new hospital let alone the x ray department. Do not be sick in August. I am taking my children to Ireland for a couple of weeks.
As of right now the junior doctors don't have jobs. They don't know where they might be moving to and tens of thousands of interviews are still to be held. It is a fiasco. The doctors are mounting a legal challenge and there are rumours of massive compensation claims.
Just 6 weeks ago it was hard to find doctors prepared to whistle blow - today they were all prepared to do so very publicly.
Then I listened to the Health Debate. The public gallery was packed with doctors in theatre scrubs and white coats. As a patient I am delighted that doctors are mostly intelligent and well educated. They sat and listened.
Case after case of doctors in crisis from all over the UK was demonstrated by Conservative, Lib Dem and even Labour MPs. Peter Bottomley (husband of the former Health Minister) said gently "does the Prime minister intend to use a similar selection process when choosing his front bench health team?". The public gallery erupted into spontaneous applause. A few minutes later we were told that if there was another squeak from the gallery we would all be marched out.
Next Patricia Hewitt stood up and tried to tell the chamber how fantastic the new process was going to be, how safe our patients were going to be. I could have made toast on the fumes coming out of the doctors' heads - but they were gagged. Beside me, in front of me, behind me doctors from all over the UK got up and walked out. "I can't listen to this woman anymore" they whispered. This from doctors whom we as patients count on to be good listeners. So much for democracy.
p.s. I've just got home - after going on 18 Doughty Street and recounting the day. The program is watched by 1-2,000 people every night, mostly politicians. I hope I am helping to get the message across.