I won’t be joining the consultants who are striking today. Though I fully support the legitimate concerns of my colleagues in the medical and other health professions taking part in industrial action across the NHS, I feel the toll this is taking on patients is unjustifiable.
This is not a decision I take lightly. When I was a junior doctor, I was very active in the original strikes that took place in 2016 opposing the new junior doctor contract. It is tempting to put this down to being young and naïve, but things were different back then: we were opposing the unilateral imposition of a new junior doctor contract rather than disputing an existing one; the healthcare system had not yet been crippled by the Covid pandemic; and the UK was in a much better position economically compared to the unemployment and financial struggles we are facing as a nation today.
This is not to say I don’t agree with the points made by consultants and junior doctors during the current industrial action. There is little doubt that hospital doctors in the NHS are under-valued compared to other developed countries. Prior to starting my consultant post, I was offered a very attractive position in New Zealand where the salary and quality of life was significantly better. Many of my colleagues have left the NHS to take up lucrative senior positions in Australia and the USA, and it is not difficult to see why.
For me the decision to stay is mainly one of duty. The NHS has always been good to me. It saved my life as a child and I have enjoyed every moment of working in the health service, from medical school to my senior position today.