Dr Jenna Saunders, a children’s doctor working in Yorkshire, has revealed stark details of the morale of workers and the situation on the ground in Yorkshire as thousands of juniors in the region take to strike pickets this week.
The 32-year-old paediatric doctor claims to know of five junior colleagues in children’s medicine alone who intend to resign from their posts in August – the month Government has pledged to impose a controversial new contract on staff.
The mum-of-two has described how existing staffing problems at hospitals in our region are already leaving rota gaps and stretching staff.
“It’s affecting every little bit of what we do and the morale of doctors every single day,” she said. “We are genuinely frightened at what’s coming. We have a recruitment and retention crisis, there are not enough doctors around to fill our rotas.”
Dr Saunders claims 30 to 40 per cent of rotas are sometimes left vacant, meaning hospitals are forced to rely on juniors to do overtime and cover locum shifts, taking staff well over their contracted hours.
As a part-time worker contracted to 24 to 26 hours per week, she often works more hours while full-time colleagues are also taking on extra work.
“If we don’t do them [locum shifts] there are no doctors. It doesn’t sit with me that I can leave a unit when there is no doctor there on the next shift,” she said. “But if I make a mistake treating children because I’m tired, pushed and pressured, I have to live with myself.
“We are already working to capacity to keep things safe and these contract changes we are terrified are going to make that drastically worse.”
Fearing further staffing issues, Dr Saunders believes the contract will hit A&E, paediatrics, acute medicine and intensive care the most.
But, while thousands of operations have been delayed this week as a result of the strike, she is convinced that juniors are right to take a stand.
She said: “I feel awful being on strike but the question as to whether it’s the right thing to do is not in doubt. We appreciate that non-urgent care is being affected but acute and emergency care is being more than adequately covered by our consultant colleagues but if the new contract drives away more doctors that is what will suffer.”
Why are junior doctors on strike?
A mass walk-out is seeing tens of thousands of junior doctors stage pickets nationwide this week.
The dispute between the Government and the British Medical Association has led to the postponement of more than 112,000 appointments and almost 13,000 operations across England.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt claims the new deal will help to create a truly seven-day NHS, while the doctors’ union has branded the contract “unsafe and unfair” due to changes in Saturday working and the removal of working hour safeguards.