DAUK’s Dr Silan Fidan writes for The House: “Going on strike is the only way to save our NHS”

Dr Silan Fidan writes for The House on her experience as a junior doctor and why strike actions are necessary to save the NHS:

“I am a junior doctor in the NHS working in a large hospital in central London. The conditions I am forced to work in goes against everything I swore in my oath upon qualifying. I feel deceived.

The patients I care for have a range of complex health and social needs. The demands of an aging population and prevalence of mental health and social needs are a direct result of an underfunded welfare system. With the added pressure of the cost of living crisis, the burden has fallen heavily on the shoulders of the NHS.

Almost a third of all patients in NHS hospitals are medically fit for discharge but a lack of health and social care provision means we have no choice but to keep them in hospital, occupying vital beds and placing them at risk of developing ongoing complications. Our capacity to deal with growing demand is fast deteriorating due to significant problems with staff recruitment and retention as a direct result of the poor working conditions we endure.

An almost 30 per cent erosion to our real terms pay has meant that many of my colleagues are now leaving the NHS and opting to move abroad or work in the private sector. We are very often dangerously understaffed with sickness and burnout absence at an all-time high. There is a strong sense of poor morale, with many of us feeling undervalued and suffering from the emotional toll of being in a position where we are unable to meet the needs of our patients. This is not because they are asking for too much, but because we have little available to give.

On a daily basis I hear harrowing stories from fellow doctors and have myself witnessed unsafe discharges and readmissions due to patients being unable to access the social services they require in the community. Regularly medical staff early in their career are exposed to extreme situations with little support. At Doctors’ Association UK (DAUK) we heard from a junior doctor recently who witnessed a patient violently attempt suicide on the ward. The patient felt unheard and terrified about the lack of support upon leaving hospital. The team had no time to debrief or recover from the experience and were immediately forced to move onto the next patient.

As we treat patients in car parks due to a lack of hospital beds, we are often on the receiving end of pressure from bed managers to discharge patients to free up capacity – which, unlike previous years, is seeing little seasonal fluctuation. The government’s ruthless policies and failure to improve our working conditions completely disregards the immense demand on our services. We now have no choice but to turn to industrial action to fight to retain our skilled colleagues and maintain our workforce.

Last week the Prime Minister dismissed claims that the NHS was in a state of crisis. The number of people waiting more than 12 hours in A&E was 150 times higher in 2022 than in 2021. Current waiting lists are seven million patients long. One in two doctors are considering leaving the NHS and mortality rates have increased by 21 per cent in one year. 

As a junior doctor, I see the NHS in a state of absolute catastrophe every single day. Immediate action from the government is needed if we have any chance of bringing it back from the brink of collapse.”

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