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The Friday Surgery

Dr Carl Walker is busy this week so we've brought in a locum.

With the kind permission of Dr Andrew Lowes, originally posted in Junior Drs' contract forum.

Dear women of England,
I'm an anaesthetic and intensive care junior doctor who has worked in the NHS for 9 years. For full disclosure I'm also a man. Yes one of those knuckle dragging, hairy, pedlars of exotic smells that you occasionally choose to procreate with when the need arises. My interests include sitting on the toilet for long periods with my iPhone, listening to my wife (whilst actually watching sports tv over her shoulder) and playing with my two year old son's toys. Occasionally I let him join in too.
My wife (who is not a doctor) would tell you (and me repeatedly) that " it's like talking to a brick wall" which is of course very cliché but also probably the truth. Generally it takes something momentous to engage and hold my interest; well something momentous is happening to our healthcare system. Since last summer you will have seen by now well-mannered junior doctors appearing on the news and standing outside hospitals desperately waving placards and banners in an attempt to warn of the dangers of a contract that is being imposed on us. We have tried our best to explain how it equates to a pay cut and more anti-social hours for a professional body that already works many weekends and nights. We have pleaded that it will stretch a workforce (already close to breaking point from a recruitment crisis and exodus of talent abroad) to a critical point where patient safety can't be guaranteed. All to achieve the political sound bite of a '7 day NHS' that is of course already in existence. In truth I think we have mainly failed in our mission to explain the detail of what is a complex issue in the 3mins of airtime we are often provided. Our message has been hampered by the government's insistence to lie, spin and vilify us at every turn and an apathetic media (on the whole) who have decided to sit on the fence. 65% of the population support our strikes not because they understand the minutiae of what is going on but when it comes down to a game of trust without knowing the facts - doctors generally win. The 'junior doctors contract' is really the tip of the iceberg that coupled with a financial crisis, staffing crisis and piecemeal privatisation has resulted in the NHS sinking at a rate of knots.
When the sorry saga of the new junior doctor contract was first proposed it was obvious to all junior doctors that everyone would be taking a hit. However it was even more obvious that professional women with families who worked less than full time would be taking a particularly vicious blow. The government tried vehemently to deny this but the facts spoke for themselves. A few days ago they let the mask slip ironically during their publication of their 'equality analysis on the new contract for doctors and dentists in training in the NHS'. Quoting directly from article 83: "Any indirect adverse effect on women is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. Whilst this may disadvantage lone parents (who are disproportionately female) due to the increased cost of childcare in the evenings and weekend. In some cases this may actually benefit other women, for example where individuals have partners, it may be easier to make informal, unpaid childcare arrangements in the evenings and weekends than it is during the week due to the increased availability of partners and wider family networks at weekends and in the evenings".
Do not adjust your sets, and no you haven't somehow time warped back to the 1950s. It is still very much 2016 but the message is clear. If women could stop juggling this career and family tomfoolery, kindly down stethoscopes and return to the kitchen, there's a good girl. If you must insist on persisting with a job then be aware you're saddling a perfectly good man with a child at weekends!
Women excel in healthcare, be it medicine, nursing or any of the other allied health professions. They are naturally compassionate, conscientious and work themselves into the ground. I could play the 'white, quite posh and male so not allowed to fail card' at medical school. However I almost certainly wouldn't have passed without my female colleagues generously lending me and my male friends their meticulous colour coded notes and essentially tutoring us with the utmost patience- for 5 whole years!
Whilst I am angry for you women of England, you should all be incensed regardless of whether you work in healthcare. I'm talking about deep seated white heat anger. The kind that I have only ever thankfully seen from my wife a couple of times but has been firmly imprinted on my psyche like PTSD. She doesn't cry or shout but one look at her face means they may be using my dental record to identify me. You haven't emerged from centuries of being treated as second class citizens to have to put up with this crap. Forget burning bras, use the wire to create some type of wicker man and throw these idiots and their medieval values into it before they bring back prima nocte. Then stand back and watch the flames. I want to see if hell really does ' hath no fury as a woman scorned'.
7 weeks ago I was blessed with a daughter. She deserves to grow up in a society where her aspirations should not be limited by her desire to have a family. I would ask the women of England to ensure that is the case.

With the utmost respect,

Dr Andrew Lowes

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