TV’s Dr Ranj writes an open letter to David Cameron to explain why he and junior doctors are planning to fight the proposed changes in their contract and conditions. 

Dear Mr. Cameron

I am a junior doctor and I have been for the last 12 years, and will be for many more. It’s one of the best jobs in the world, and I consider myself privileged to do it.

I’m one of over 50,000 others who do our best to make sure our NHS is there for people whenever they need it. We work hard to provide a good and safe service and to give our patients the best care we can. Yes, I know it’s not perfect, but the NHS does pretty well despite the immense pressure it is under.

A while back you pleaded with me and my colleagues to call off the first junior doctor strike in 40 years. I totally understand why you’re worried and why you want us to listen to you. But in return, you must listen to us too – the people who work in the NHS day-in-day-out and are terrified that the contract changes you are proposing could end up destroying the service we all rely on so much.

So, I’d like to plead with you (and the government)…

1) Please stop saying that the reason behind the junior doctor contract changes is to provide a ‘7-day NHS’. We all know it already functions 24/7 for urgent and emergency care. How can you provide a complete 7-day service without extra funding, extra staff or putting on any extra services over the weekend? It’s obvious that spreading the existing workforce even thinner will only make things worse.

2) Please stop implying that junior doctors don’t work very hard and only care about pay. We’ve worked really hard to get where we are. We get paid far less than other equivalent professions. We’ve taken a relative pay cut over several years, and still work hard to make sure the NHS continues to be one of the best healthcare systems in the world. We continue to go the extra mile for our patients and do extra work, for no extra pay, because we care so much. We’re not asking for a pay rise, only that you treat us fairly.

3) Please stop saying that doctors working conditions will not get worse. You know that without proper, robust safeguards in place, doctors could end up working unsafe hours and as a result, they themselves and their patients could come to harm. We’re already stretched to breaking point. It wasn’t that long ago when doctors and patients were dying because of unsafe working practices. We must not go back to those times.

4) Please can you stop saying that doctors and their union, the BMA, are deliberately being difficult and not negotiating. We’ve been shouting about how dangerous these changes could be for the NHS and pleaded with you to negotiate properly without threats. We have a moral duty to stand up for our service and our patients. We’ve had changes imposed on us before and it was a disaster. We can’t let that happen again.

5) Please can you stop beating up the medical profession and publicly denigrating our NHS, to the point where many are considering leaving and young people don’t want to become doctors and nurses anymore. Where are you going to find people to staff a 7-day NHS if everyone leaves because they’ve had enough abuse? I know so many who are beating themselves up because they’re being made to feel like failures. It’s heart-breaking to see this happen.

Don’t get me wrong, I want a good 7-day NHS just like you do. I want a contract that is fit for purpose and good for the NHS. However, you must realise that this isn’t they way to go about it. Only through working together and really listening to each other are we going to create a better NHS – the NHS our patients deserve.

Doctors don’t want to strike. We didn’t go into this job with that kind of mentality, but have been forced into this situation as we have no other choice. The fact that 98% of doctors polled agreed to industrial action at all should show you how concerned we are.

You don’t know me, but I hope you know how worried I am. Please, for the sake of the NHS I love and the patients I care for so much, listen to us before it’s too late.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Ranj Singh
Junior Doctor