Junior Doctors #notsafenotfair

The NHS saved my baby. And now I want to repay the favour.

The NHS saw me through my childhood, vaccinations, German measles, chicken pox, tonsillitis just to name a few conditions.

The NHS diagnosed my chronic hypertension, and then they helped me manage it.

The NHS helped train the GP that celebrated with me when I walked in with my positive pregnancy test, that took time out to snuggle with my tiny newborn at my 6 week check, that cared when she asked me how I was, really. And meant it. (And thank you again Dr Evans!)

The NHS trained the anaesthetist who organised the whole team for my crash c section, that urged everyone to move faster. That lives were at stake.

The NHS is more than just a healthcare system. It is more than just the doctors. It is everyone. Every cog. Every person. But today, today I’m talking about the Junior Doctors.


These past few weeks I’ve had my eyes opened and learnt so much about the NHS, specifically those super beings of the NHS in the doctors that I didn’t know before through the power of social media and blogging. And I just want to say thank you to you all out there.

The Myth a Junior Doctor is junior

I always, always, assumed a junior doctor was fresh out of medical school, completed a year and bam was a “real” doctor.  What I didn’t realise was the years of dedication and training and you stay a junior doctor until you reach consultant level (or GP). A doctor remains junior for a minimum of 7 years. Seven. And that is the minimum time taken to reach consultant level. Often it’s longer.

Junior doctors encompass all from house officers to speciality registrars, all the titles given merely grades given under the umbrella of Junior Doctor to work towards that all important consultant grade where you can shed the shackles of the term “junior”.

Yes, junior doctors will include fresh faced graduates, but that’s not all of them, that’s not the whole picture, the whole story.

jr doctor

These “junior” doctors can be parents raising young families, can be sons and daughters caring for elderly parents, can be part of the couple desperately trying to start a family, could be single with no time to go out to carve a life for themselves, could be the person walking across the street from you. Except chances are they aren’t that person because they will be working, apparently social hours of work are, going to be, from 7am-10pm Monday through Saturday for a doctor.

For the rest of us, social hours are 9am-5pm Monday to Friday. And yes, I know many of you will work longer hours. Unsocial hours. But we aren’t contracted to do so. And generally there is a form of compensation, or the flexibility for you to leave early on another day.

Junior doctors are required to work these hours as part of their contracted hours. Not only that but they work those longer hours to provide a 24 hour service, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

You get sick on Christmas? You go see a doctor. You get sick at 3am at night? Doctor. Your child falls out a tree and breaks his arm on a Sunday morning, yep, you guessed it Doctor. And in each case chances are a “junior” doctor.

We take for granted so much of what we feel we are entitled to with the NHS. With access to healthcare, with access to over worked yet “junior” doctors. That these doctors are there to work for us, as a country, in hospitals, surgeries, research…..


Oh yes. Research, in other words potentially career progression halting.

You know, all important research into diseases and conditions that we all want a cure for leads to a doctor choosing to halt their career progression. And while they are halting their progression through to elusive consultant status they are also halting any potential pay progression.  All the while performing vital research.  Desperately searching for cures.  For answers.  For understanding.  Of diseases so terrible you can only hope and pray they don’t touch your family.  Would I, when I was a banking professional, do that? Work so hard on something so vital, so critical, yet not be recognized either via promotion or pay? No. I wouldn’t. Would you? Our junior doctors do.


Reasearch like cancer research.

Did you know that 1 in 2 people born after 1960 is diagnosed with some form of cancer in their lifetime (statistic from Cancer Research)?  That there are five categories of cancer. Categories. Not specific types, just ways in which you can categorise a disease which, in all probability, will touch us all. There are doctors working to find a cure for each strain, in each category. Researching on how best to treat. Looking at mutations. Working with patients, often terminal cases, in an effort to make a difference. To help. To beat the disease.

Research like Research into Gestational Conditions.

HELLP. Pre-eclampsia. Gestational Diabetes. To name but a few conditions that may effect you while pregnant. We don’t know the whys or the hows. We don’t know what the root cause is in all cases, sometimes we don’t know why these things happen at all. Life threatening not just to a mother or a baby.

In each of my pregnancies hypertension was an issue. In each of my pregnancies it was managed and treated thanks to medical research. Most importantly in each of my pregnancies I brought home a healthy baby boy. Thanks to those doctors working tirelessly, taking samples, analysing, cross checking, seeing thousands of pregnant women, hoping each time to find out why, how, when. What they can do to help. What drugs are safe. Where the critical points lie.

Research like SIDS Research.

Trying to understand the whys of this life changing devastating death. To help us all keep our babies a little bit safer. To understand what may cause a tiny, defenceless baby to simply cease living and to use that research to help hundreds of thousands more babies, babies that are born and yet to be born.

Research into ALS and other conditions.

Facebook and the ice bucket challenge may have raised awareness of ALS along with much needed funds for research. But who are the researchers? You can bet your bottom dollar that junior doctors will help make up that task force.

What would you say?

And what would you say if you, or someone you loved, was touched by anything above that research was halted? Because it’s not sustainable for doctors to carry on? To live like this?

I’ve only touched on a few pieces of research, of course there are more. More than I will ever know or realise about. Into disease and various strains of disease. Into complications. Into science. Until it touches me I may not even understand the full force or impact that this research has. That this research will do for me. For you.

The Job

Of course not all doctors go into research though it’s highly likely at some point they will in order to be the best doctor they can be. Or because their specialisation requires it.

There is still the constant educating yourself. Paying, out of your own pocket for that training. I’ve never had to pay for a training course that enabled me to perform my job better – have you?

Having to keep passing exams. Remaining on the register. On top of a patient work load.

Compassion. Staying that extra 5 minutes here, over running by 10 minutes there. Not from drinking coffee. Or checking Facebook. Or the little things I used to be able to do during my working day. But by spending an extra 5 minutes answering questions of a panicked and frightened patient who’s been newly diagnosed with something they weren’t expecting. 10 minutes here explaining the surgery they are about to undertake on your child, reiterating the same point to help calm you. Help you understand. Minutes, hours sometimes, to help console someone recently bereaved.

After my crash section, though I can’t remember my doctors name, that very doctor who made the call to send me rushing down the corridor (sitting on the bed monitoring me the whole way, speaking calm words of reassurance even though she knew she had only minutes to get this right) to my son being born 7 minutes later, blue, not breathing, with an AGPAR of 2. To breathing life back into him. Him turning pink. Finding out he was a him. She then took the time once her shift had ended to come and see me. To check on me. To check on the Toddler (or baby as he was then) to hold him. To coo at him. To tell me not to worry I did a good job. She didnt have to do that. But I’ll never forget it. She was a junior doctor.

The Stats

The pay.

Basic pay starting at £22,636. Approximately £9 per hour….

The hours.

A maximum 48 hour week has been passed by government. Doesn’t sound too bad? That is a 48 hour average week. Averaged throughout the year. Including holiday time. That is a total of 2,496 hours a year. Contracted hours.

You get a rota, and that’s that. Your hours are locked in. Contracted. And throughout the year rota’s will tend to be 50% of weeks working under 48 hours (you know, 40 hours, 44.5 hours) and 50% of weeks working more than 48 hours (50h, 56h, 74h)* #notsafenotfair.

To put that in perspective I took my last contract (seeing as my current contract is unpaid, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year – welcome to parenthood!) looking at those hours. My contracted hours were 39.5 hours a week PLUS 30 days holiday PLUS 8 public holidays. Yes, I didn’t stick to my contracted hours. I never took a lunch. There were days I worked 12 hours. There were weeks that I was heading for 60+ hour weeks. BUT these weren’t my contracted hours. My contracted hours amounted to 1,840 annually.

A difference of 655 hours to a Junior Doctors contracted hours. A difference of 27 days. A difference of 16 and a half of my working weeks.

How is that fair? How is that safe? That in one year a junior doctor will be contracted that much more than me?

The years training in University.

5 years. After securing 3 A’s in A Levels. Racking up student debt.

The years training on the job.

Minimum of 7 years to reach consultant level, that’s to reach consultancy in Radiology with two years of foundation and five years specialty training. Realistically a lot of specialties require fellowships, further research degrees (oh that elusive research above again), further education, management qualifications.

All at a cost to yourself. Courses and exams can be anywhere up to (and over) £3,500.

The paycut being enforced.

Is expected to be 30%.

Do you begrudge….?

Do you begrudge someone making ends meet?  Do you begrudge someone being able to afford their family?  Do you begrudge someone living out their hopes and dreams? Do you begrudge someone being fairly compensated for the work that they do? Do you begrudge someone working a safe number of hours a week?

I don’t.

And that’s why I signed the petition to oppose the change in the junior doctor contract.

Will you?

Thank you to all of those in the NHS….

“The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it”
– Aneurin Bevan, the founder of the NHS

*Thank you to Dr Jonathon for sharing his current rota with me.




  1. October 22, 2015 / 5:40 pm

    Great post shared!! Sorry I can’t add anything else but you’ve hit the nail on the head with this! x x
    Sadie recently posted…Finding My SmileMy Profile

    • October 24, 2015 / 9:57 pm

      Thanks Sadie xx

  2. October 22, 2015 / 9:46 pm

    You’re a star – thank you so much for getting on board! Us junior docs worry we are just in our own little bubble and no one else understands, so it’s really wonderful to see a very thorough article banishing the myths and putting the truth out from someone non doctor!

    I think on average to get to consultant level it’s probably more like 9-10 years in most specialities (and that’s without any maternity leave, research, voluntary work abroad, extra time to do exams), as its two years of foundation training and then 7-8 years of speciality training. Pretty much the same for all hospitals jobs, like paeds, general medicine etc. In my case I’ve already added another 3 years on through maternity leave and taking an extra year to concentrate on an exam, which is fine, I’m not complaining about how long it takes, but it’s nice to have the understanding that a junior is pretty experienced and not well paid, considering the responsibility, epic workload, chronic understaffing of posts around you, and punishing rotas. Anyway enough of my whinging – thanks again for writing this.

    • October 22, 2015 / 10:44 pm

      There was such a range of levels, I think it worked out as an average of 11 years not counting mat leave, but the minimum was 7 to become a radiology consultant.

      I felt compelled to write after reading your post and then sitting and thinking how much the NHS has done for me. Sometimes it’s nice to hear a voice that isn’t close to the matter supporting and getting behind you (at least I hope it is). Awareness can only be a good thing – because it isn’t fair, it isn’t safe.

      Thank you for all that you do.

  3. October 23, 2015 / 9:36 am

    Completely agree with everything! It’d so easy for people to moan about the NHS, but they really need to think about what every single person included is doing. I’m eternally grateful for all the help I’ve ever received for both Archie and myself. #effitfriday

    • October 23, 2015 / 12:18 pm

      Thanks Kaye. The other side is privatisation, one of my doctor friends doesn’t want to see that happen because where do you then sit ethically treating people with the same disease differently because of the amount they can pay.

    • October 23, 2015 / 12:17 pm

      I think that some of the problems have been in place a long time but the hammering of the nails in the coffin are coming hard and fast. The other problem, from talking to my doctor friends, is the fact that doctors haven’t wanted to take action before due to a duty of care, public imagery of them and the fact that they do it for the love of it!

  4. October 23, 2015 / 11:26 am

    I really wish I could shake your hand and you actually brought tears to my eyes. The NHS has saved my own and my father!s life on more than one occasion. It has eneabked me to walk and to have a family of my own. I am no longer a UK resident and I now pay a lot of money every month in health insurance to be taken care of when I am sick. In the UK we are totally privileged not to have to worry if we have an accident that we can afford the ambulance fee, or Treatment.
    Junior donors deserve respect and a fair contact and pay scale that reflects the amazing job that they do. There is something radically wrong with this world when footballers are paid unbelievable fees and given god like status for their roles and junior Drs are only worth a bloody pittance. How on earth do you support your family or pay for child care on that???
    I really applaud you for writing this. Where do I sign the petition?
    Catie: An imperfect mum recently posted…Family Fun: Simple Halloween CraftsMy Profile

      • October 23, 2015 / 11:45 am

        You can sign as a British Citizen even if you are not UK resident *from what I read anyway* xx

    • October 23, 2015 / 11:52 am

      Thank you Catie. I feel the same I always thought that private healthcare would help but having experienced it I realise how lucky the UK is having the NHS. not wondering whether the drugs prescribed are actually needed or as a “well your insurance will pay it out” mentality.

  5. October 23, 2015 / 11:58 am

    My cousin is a Junior Doctor in London, which, as an Aussie, is a term I’ve never understood, particularly as she’s been working as a doctor for years and year… with a couple of years off to have kids, she’s easily been a practising anaesthetist for over a decade, but is still a ‘Junior’ doctor, and earning far far less than her construction working husband. The proposed changes will make their lives untenable.
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  6. October 23, 2015 / 12:03 pm

    Fantastic post, so well written (as always!)……I’m a nurse and us folk do work hard but always get hit with the rubbish stick and never really get ant recognition for the extra hours we work and our crap pay but we do it because we want to and to make a difference!! We need to be thankful for our NHS…..people would not be happy if we didn’t have it after all!! #effitfriday
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    • October 23, 2015 / 12:15 pm

      Thanks Helen. I think people have common misconception about the NHS doctors and nurses from stereotypes in the media and film. Out of interest how will the junior contact effect nurses? Will it be a case of one down, next stop nurses?

  7. October 23, 2015 / 12:29 pm

    Wow I didn’t even know you had to train 7 years as a junior doctor that’s some dedication. X
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    • October 24, 2015 / 9:47 pm

      And that’s a minimum, in majority of cases its a lot more. You add getting pregnant or re taking exams it slowly starts to increase x

  8. Vicky
    October 24, 2015 / 12:08 am

    Obstetric registrar doing research here. You’ve made me teary after finishing on call (late… Back to an empty house as husband is on nights in a different hospital). Thank you for the support but particularly the appreciation for the work we do. I think that’s what has really upset many people about the new contract – feeling like the sacrifices we make to do a job which can yes, be great, but also bloody awful, exhausting and emotionally harrowing isn’t valued. Patients don’t make us feel like that but politicians and the media (daily mail I’m looking at you) really do. And when you live miles away from your family (moved even further away for the research!) say no to birthdays, Christmas, weddings etc, can’t plan more than six months in advance (no rota!) regularly don’t see your husband for 5 days at a time (who on earth knows how kids fit into that equation) and then it’s suggested that your hours should increase and pay be cut? Well you do start to wonder if it’s worth it. If, perhaps, you should take your decent grades and transferable skills and do something else…

    • October 24, 2015 / 9:44 pm

      Thank you for your lovely comment Vicky and I didn’t mean to make you teary! I think it’s wonderful the job that all doctors (and all of the NHS) do and you are largely unappreciated until somebody needs you. People moan about the NHS until the NHS does something that they can’t grumble at. I can never thank the junior doctor who sent me hurtling down the corridor for the section, no dilly dallying, no wasting precious seconds, for getting my son out alive. In time. Just.

      So thank you. For your hard work and dedication. For your sacrifice. For being a #juniordoctor xx

  9. Vicky
    October 24, 2015 / 12:10 am

    (PS still junior, 9 years of full time work after graduation..)

  10. October 24, 2015 / 9:23 pm

    This is an important message to get out, so thank you for writing the post. I have signed the petition and will share the post so others csn see it.#effitfriday

    • October 24, 2015 / 9:39 pm

      Thanks Tracey – awareness is key I think because some points I didn’t realise until the proposed contract changes were made public and junior doctors started coming forward.

  11. October 24, 2015 / 9:31 pm

    Well I’ve learned something. I didn’t realise you remained a junior doctor for seven years. I remember the days in the last Rory administration when junior doctors routinely worked 70+ hours a week. It was exploitation and we seem to be slowly return to those days. Very justified rant. Thanks for hosting #effitfriday
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    • October 24, 2015 / 9:38 pm

      From what I’ve learnt from speaking with the junior doctors is that 7 years is the minimum and that’s to become a radiology consultant. Most other disciplines are round ELEVEN years as a junior factoring in fellowships and research required to move forward as well as the extra qualifications. The two junior doctors I know personally are both now PhD qualified as well as MD qualified and yet are still considered junior doctors. It’s baffling. And widely unknown outside of the medical community.

  12. Yan
    October 26, 2015 / 11:35 am

    Many thanks for highlighting the issues currently surrounding junior doctors especially in the UAE. I was a junior doctor, specialising in paediatrics in the UK. Have been for 10 years. I am 34 and a mum to a 1 year old wriggler and have been working in Dubai for the last 8mnths as a paediatrician. Am feeling for my colleagues back in the UK and very wary of eventually returning there to finish my training so I can stop being a junior doctor and finally become a consultant which will be another 2.5years full time, but realistically another 5 years part time.

  13. October 29, 2015 / 8:35 pm

    This is such a great post. This should be shown to every single person out there. Especially those who dislike NHS. I have come across many people who dislike the NHS and their ‘useless staff’ (in their words) but yet they are more than happy to still use NHS.

    NHS Should be paid much more.

    thanks for linking up with #justanotherlinky
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    • November 4, 2015 / 7:35 am

      Thank you Beth, i agree. And wonderfully I got an email and the petition has been taken to debate yippee!

  14. November 3, 2015 / 5:46 pm

    Plus brain boggling amounts of student debt at the end of it all. Sharing everywhere!

  15. February 12, 2016 / 11:25 am

    Well you’ve definitely opened my eyes!! The money our taxes go to really need to be prioritised so it can compensate worthy causes like the NHS, schools and police. We get annoyed when things like this happen and people are worked to the bone. No wonder out doctor is always miserable. Considering the government has made it a law to not work above a certain amount of hours a week it’s terrible they’re not even enforcing this I’m the public service! You should send your post to a local GP or newspaper it’s brilliant
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  16. February 12, 2016 / 5:50 pm

    Doctors are one of the most important people our society needs in order to stay healthy, yet we pay them so little, at least the resident doctors (that’s what we call junior doctors over here). They start out at $29,000/yearly. I got paid more than that as a Developmental Specialist, working with small children with learning delays. Most doctors start out working in the ER and they HAVE to be on call 24/7. It doesn’t matter when their shift ends, if there is an emergency or the hospital is short handed, the residents are expected to work. Unless you have tenure or are a surgeon, you really aren’t making as much money as the general public thinks you are. Our teachers aren’t treated very good over here either. Most teachers start our making about $30,000/yearly and are under contract as well but they have to provide their own school supplies for their students. Once a teacher gets his/her bachelor’s degree they have to take the state required testing to get a license to teach, which costs money that they have to pay out of pocket. It’s one of the reasons I have yet to get my teaching license. I don’t have the money. Most teachers work second jobs, especially in the summer because while they get a salary, they don’t get paychecks during the summer so in order to keep the money coming in to pay bills, they often will work in summer school programs or summer camps. It’s often said that teachers are over worked and under paid. The same can be said of doctors and police officers, who are also out there working double shifts, sometimes triple shifts, trying to save lives and getting little pay. Thanks for bringing this to light. I think more people need to realize just how much these very important people do for us. #effitfriday

  17. February 12, 2016 / 6:41 pm

    Great post. I work in X-Ray at a hospital, and although we don’t have “junior doctors” here, the number of hours some of these MDs and PAs work really is astounding. Safety for all rally needs to be more of a considerations when decisions such as this are being made
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  18. February 12, 2016 / 7:58 pm

    I have nothing to say but bravo for sharing all this and I’m going to share it on my feed. I’m totally in support of the doctors. I hope that they get what they need to be able to do the job that they do and that we need them too!
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  19. February 12, 2016 / 11:55 pm

    Brilliant post! The responsibility placed on the shoulders of medical staff is immense, yet they’re regularly working such long hours it’s just luck that mistakes and mishaps aren’t way more common. We’re really lucky that the Welsh NHS is devolved, for all the guff the media says about it! x #effitfriday
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  20. February 12, 2016 / 11:59 pm

    This is a great post and so relevant again now they are imposing the contract. It really mskes me angry too – not just the contract changes, which are absurd, but the portrayal of the junior doctors by Mr. Hunt. I shout at the tv all the time whenever his ridiculous views are mentioned! #effitfriday

  21. February 13, 2016 / 1:15 am

    The NHS really is a wonderful thing! Thank goodness you received such excellent care during your labour. I never knew what a junior doctor meant either – I assumed just out of school. Doctor’s put in so many hours & have such a huge dedication to their profession! This si a great tribute post to them.
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  22. February 13, 2016 / 2:25 am

    I think as a country we should be proud and reward our NHS, of which so called ‘junior’ doctors are part of the backbone (amongst the nurses, care workers and other unsung heros). Pay them what they are due, let’s face it they are better women/men than we are to train and take the job in the first place! Getting into the rant thing via #effitfriday
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  23. February 13, 2016 / 11:35 am

    It is so frustrating when I hear about the change to social hours. I can’t see how this can be called social, as you say most people work 9-5 mon-Friday and I don’t see why that can’t be the same for these doctors. After all I am sure they have families and lives outside work. More money needs to be plugged into the NHS for either more doctors, not make the already stretched doctors work more for less, or pay the current doctors what they are due – after all they are saving lives which is more than the fat cats can say! Sorry rant over ha ha. Great post. I have signed the petition too 🙂 xxx #effitfriday

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