Overworked and underpaid: Diary of a Junior Doctor 2017

If only we'd stopped this when we had the chance.

NS

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August 1st

Whew. Just got my new contract! Very exciting. I’ve heard good things from government; safer, better paid, more training opportunities. Just coming in to registrar training after a year in research so excited to be back in the hospital. Obviously all this ‘pay protection’ doesn’t apply to me, but never mind! They’ve given me a training agreement to sign, allowing them to roster teaching on evenings & weekends apparently. Sounds great! Signed and sent.

First day tomorrow.

August 2nd

Started today - got given my ‘work schedule’. I thought I was supposed to go through it with my educational supervisor but they haven’t assigned me one yet. Doesn’t look like rotas I remember. Here is my first week:

Wednesday– Long day 8-21.00
Thursday– Normal day 9-17.00, On-call from home to 0800am
Friday– Night 10pm-0800am
Saturday– OFF
Sunday – Night 8pm – 0800am
Monday– OFF
Tuesday– Long day 8.00- 21.00
Wednesday– Long day 8.00-21.00

Anyway, let’s see how it goes! Had my wife Jane look at it, she’s on maternity leave from surgical training at the moment with our 11 month old, and she wondered how it would work.

August 3rd

Whew! Tough first day. The hospital hasn’t filled the other registrar post yet, so I’m on my work schedule alone. Had both bleeps today, very busy, back and forth to A&E, plus did both ward rounds. Missed teaching and had to leave the training list early to see sick patients on the ward. Handover was a bit odd- one registrar was starting for the night at 8pm, and the other was working 2pm till 10pm. Not sure who was responsible for what. Quite confusing, team members turning up at different times, ended up staying till midnight trying to make sure everyone knew about the patients and plans were in place. Got home at 0100 am. Jane not pleased. Rocky start.

August 4th

Had a read of the contract today- apparently I need to be reporting long shifts like last night, and should get paid for work done. Phoned an HR lady, a Ms Massey, who said as work wasn’t ‘approved’ they don’t count it. I asked her who it should be ‘approved’ by and she didn’t know. She told me to send an ‘exception report’ to my supervisor. Tried again with my educational supervisor - apparently she’s on annual leave for the next week so will speak to her on her return. Anyway, will get some pre-bedtime time with Jack tonight, finishing at 5.00. Will have the on call phone but the trust estimate that should get five hours sleep and work maximum 25% time apparently. Sounds reasonable.

August 5th

Oh my god. Last night was horrendous - called back in to work just as I walked in the door, didn’t manage to stop working till handover, a 24 hour shift! This can’t be safe. I hope all the on calls aren’t this bad. Exhausted. Note to self: try and find this ‘Guardian of safe working’ I’ve heard about. Got home just in time to take Jack to play group for an hour. He was chuffed to see his dad and mum in the same place for once. Had to go straight to bed when we got home - back to night shift tonight.


August 6th

Eurgh. Saturday. I think. Woke up at 2pm after another busy night shift. No one to hand over to in the morning - had to stay till 10.00 till the next shift person arrived. Apparently a gap in someone’s ‘work schedule’. So I’ve worked 10 hours on a day it says ‘OFF’ on my rota. This is chaos. On another night shift tomorrow. Must get some sort of work review– already! Don’t want to rock the departmental boat but this can’t be safe for anyone.

August 8th

Monday morning. Tried to stay in the hospital after another night shift and find out about supervisors and guardians. No joy with the supervisor - the covering consultant has too much to do with their own trainees they can’t do a review with me. Found out the name of the Guardian - a Mr Angel. Called his office - secretary said he had no appointments till October now, and work reviews are a six week process, and I need to submit in writing. I asked why and the secretary was a bit snappy with me - “Mr Angel is working very hard but covers three hospitals so what do you expect?”. I asked around - the BMA can’t do hours monitoring anymore. Maybe I’ll try them anyway. Don’t know what else to do. Long day tomorrow.

Aug 31st

Wow. Got my payslip today- can’t really work it out but I’m earning less than my 1A banded job two years ago. There’s more coming out for pensions now, I don’t qualify for Saturday uplift because Friday night shifts start on Friday, and the on-call work pay is estimated in advance, so it’s about £2.80 an hour. Driving back and forth at night is becoming dangerous, so I asked for accommodation to be on site overnight - apparently this has to be deducted from my pay, so I now owe the hospital money for every on call shift I work. What the f**k.

My wife’s off mat pay now so we are a bit stuck for the mortgage. I’ll probably have to do extra locum work, but I don’t know where it will fit in these rotas.

Sept 5th

Exhausted - we’ve had two resignations in my department, one first year and the other training registrar. No-one’s replaced them yet. Got called in to cover a shift this Saturday – Ms Massey told me it was expected for us to cover, and didn’t qualify as a locum. She gave me a day in lieu, but can’t tell me when I can take it. Missed Jack’s birthday. Pretty gutted. Sent ten ‘exception reports’ in the last few weeks and no response. Where do they all go?

Sept 6th

Got hold of my educational supervisor - she seems nice enough, agreed the rota is looking dangerous but has already sent exception reports and work reviews off and awaiting replies. She doesn’t know who to escalate to either. She tried to make ‘pay amendments’ already but HR won’t accept them. The medical director is trying the Guardian but Mr Angel has just gone off sick with stress, and there’s no replacement as yet. Off the record everyone’s quite unhappy. Jane is looking at going back to work but it isn’t looking like with childcare we will be able to manage both of us, and it seems if we went part time we’d only get ‘allocated leave‘ so no chance of ever arranging time together and if we went part time we’d get paid less per hour than full time. That can’t be right? For the same work?

Sept 14th

This is getting dangerous, I’ve tried to raise it with my on call consultant– a locum this week, no clue what I’m talking about. No one is in charge of our hours and every week the rota is filled with gaps and odd hours. Our patients don’t know who is looking after them at any given time, we spend whole nights working flat out without rest, with no one to report to. People are dropping like flies now - I have had two locums on every shift for the last week.

In the meantime my work review is now ‘closed‘, as ‘rostered’ hours are within contract. I can appeal if I want. I tried to get some leave but my ‘allocated’ leave was overruled due to lack of staff, and I can only take leave on ‘normal’ days which is usually once a week. We cancelled our holiday plans. I missed Jack’s birthday and haven’t been at home with the family, awake, for a whole weekend for six weeks. It’s getting tough with Jane.

Oct 1st

I managed to get through to the new Guardian- this one is one of the board of directors at my hospital. He’s rejected my appeal for a work review, citing ‘exceptional pressure’ on the hospital. He gave me an appointment to resubmit in 6 weeks- I pointed out I will have moved to my next job by then. He didn’t care. I snapped. I can’t do this anymore.

Oct 10th

I spoke to the BMA today- they don’t have any powers beyond issuing reprimanding letters, which they already have. I’m burnt out, I feel jet lagged every day, I don’t even care about my patients any more. I know this isn’t safe - so I have handed in my notice. Jane has got a job in surgery in Vancouver, so we are out. Will it help the patients? No - but staying isn’t helping either. If they want to collapse the system, then it’s too late to do anything about.

If only we’d stopped this when we had the chance.

This piece was originally published on Junior Doctor Blog. It is republished with permission.

The Just Health campaign is mounting a legal challenge to contract imposition.