Dear Dr Wollaston (Conservative MP for Totnes and Chair of the Health Committee in the House of Commons),
It is with dismay that I am writing this open letter to you (a former GP with first-hand experience of the situation with junior doctors as your daughter has recently left the NHS to work in Australia), after seeing your media appearances targeting junior doctors who are being forced to enter industrial action due to a contract proposal which is unsafe for both patients and doctors and is already leading to a significant reduction in medical
student numbers and retained UK doctors.
As you are uniquely endowed with the experience of three service vocations (doctor, teacher and currently member of parliament), I find it mind-boggling that you choose to toe the party line rather than do the right thing. This contract:
i) removes the robust national safeguards which prevent doctors working excessive hours
ii) cuts out the minimum break requirements
iii) fundamentally changes the normal working week to add a day when hospital resources are lacking
iv) disadvantages doctors who work less-than-full-time and have families.
It is truly unacceptable and the facts are there for all doctors and the public to see. There
is no union pressure which led to 99.4% of junior doctors supporting industrial action (98% full strike) and 66% of the public supporting it (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-35288042)
Your daughter and 8 of her friends have recently left the National Health Service to work in Australia: Huffington Post – http://tiny.cc/otk27x
Like your daughter, I also went to the Antipodes for a few years and can vouch for the overwhelming disparity in working conditions between the UK and abroad and the ease of finding a training job as a UK-trained doctor. I came back for two reasons: my family
and because I feel a debt to the NHS from a personal perspective. However, there are many doctors who have decided that enough is enough and the numbers leaving are surging as evidenced by the phenomenal increase in applications for the GMC certificate of good standing (needed to work abroad) since these contract proposals started.
“The General Medical Council received 1,644 requests for certificates of current professional status (CCPS) – required to work abroad – in just three days last week. Usually, the
regulator receives 20-25 a day.”
In addition to doctors leaving, the next generation of doctors is already dwindling! The number of medical school applications this year has dropped by 11%. I teach medical
students and my current batch are all looking to apply to work abroad.
My two questions are – 1) Do you not find this immenselyworrying 2) Why are you doing this?
You must be aware that if this contract goes through, so many more doctors will join your daughter in Australia or leave medicine. When you were training, however bad working conditions might have been, there was a net influx of doctors from Australia and New Zealand to the United Kingdom. This no longer exists, and the incongruence of working and living standards now threatens the future of the national health service as we will be left with huge gaps. This will add to the irony of this entire catastrophe starting because the Secretary of State for Health wanted to parcel it within the implausible ambition of the world’s first and only 7-day “routine” healthcare system (in a country which has reduced GDP per capita spend on healthcare consistently since 2010 in comparison with our peers).
I beg you not to use your hugely influential position to bring about a change which will bring the National Health Service to its knees and will cause immense harm to the British public over the 21st century.