Saturday, 23 June 2007

MTAS Madness

The bandwagon of self-pity surrounding the MTAS fiasco rumbles ever onwards, with news today that one in five junior doctors questioned in a survey has experienced suicidal thoughts in connection with the shambolic recruitment scheme.

Now don't get me wrong here, I think the whole MTAS cock-up is as appalling as the next man, and should be a resigning matter for Patricia Hewitt, at least. But the findings of this survey from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, authored, in part, by Professor Dinesh Bhugra, Dean of the College, are at least as disturbing as their alleged cause.

If these findings are to be believed, of the 600 junior docs questioned so far, one in five has considered suicide, 94% are more stressed than normal, one third say they have made more mistakes at work than normal, two fifths say they care less about patient care, a third admitted to drinking more than normal and a quarter have taken more sick leave than normal.

Let's summarise that: we have a whole bunch of pissed up, pissed off junior doctors, who are making mistakes, pulling sickies, don't care about the impact on patients and wouldn't mind topping themselves. And the majority of these apathetic whingers attribute the cause to the hassles of the recruitment process.

Well, I've got news for you, boys and girls - welcome to the real world. Life is a stressful business, doctoring even more so. Nobody forced you into your so-called caring profession, you chose it yourselves. And while I agree that those in charge of the health service, by and large, couldn't organise a piss-up in a brewery (you'd know all about that, eh?), this is hardly breaking news.

Far from it, in fact. The distressing state of the health service, and the unfortunate working conditions imposed on junior doctors, has been making headlines for at least the last decade - long before any of you were even taking your A' Levels, let alone getting into medical school. Did you do any research into your prospective careers, at all? Did you wonder whether the working conditions might be a bit crap? Or were you so smitten with the idea of being a doctor that you leapt in with both feet, only to find the water was a bit deeper, and a lot murkier than you'd bargained for?

Face it, guys, doctoring is a bloody stressful job, and not just for the immediately obvious reasons. If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen and let those juniors who can handle it fill the dismally meagre number of available posts.

As for those junior doctors who have produced the findings reported in the Royal College survey, I hope for your sakes that the survey was conducted anonymously, because that sort of behaviour sounds very much like the stuff referrals to the General Medical Council are made of.

The Council, as many people will know, is barely able to find its way out of a paper bag unaided, and, while being totally unable to handle concerns of a genuinely serious nature, is only too willing to make up for this incompetence by relentlessly pursuing the more easily understood complaints, regardless of their veracity. I should think drunken behaviour, failure to turn up for work and disregard for patient care would fall easily within their definitions of misconduct, and stress leading to suicidal thoughts might well interest their health assessors.

So, in the absence of any meaningful action from the Department of Health, here's my suggestion on how to alleviate the whole recruitment crisis:

Those of you who can't cut it, resign. Those who won't resign should be shipped off to the GMC and struck off for being a disgrace to the medical profession. The rest of you, with whom, believe it or not, I sympathise greatly, will then have a far better chance of finding one of those dodo-droppings-like jobs, and the public will have a fair chance of getting reasonable medical care from a junior doctor who isn't drunk, apathetic and suicidal.

Billy Seggars


The Witch Doctor said...


Great blog.

In this case, though, the The Witch Doctor thinks you are being hard (or controversial) (or both).

Imagine this - The weekend - no break - start work Friday am. Your head hardly touches the pillow till Monday pm. Another full week follows without a break. On top of this you have no idea whether you will have a job at all in a couple of months time without leaving medicine. Even if you are successful, you have no idea where you will be working. You will need to move house at very short notice. You will be working like this till the day before you move. You have a wife and kids to support. You no longer feel you have any control of your life. And you don't, because the NHS is a monopoly.

This degree of sleeplessness, exhaustion, worry and lack of control is the breeding ground for suicidal thoughts - in almost everybody - even without a demanding job as well.

The norm.

However, having suicidal thoughts is quite different from seriously contemplating suicide. So, hopefully we won't lose a fifth of our young doctors in this way.

Doctors do however, have a relatively high suicide rate. This is probably because they are human.

And everyone nowadays wants doctors who are touchy feely human beings.


PS Yes, 72 + hours without sleep at all is the way it was, rather than the way it is, but there are other modern pressures associated with cross covering large numbers of patients not known to you. It adds to the feeling of loss of control that the tired doctors of yesterday did not have.

TotallyBushed said...

The medical profession is not the real world. The major reason is because the NHS abuse their position as a monopoly employer. Imagine you are a lawyer. You work long hours. Then imagine you're sacked. You will undergo a recruitment process which is dangerously unfair. If you get a job, you don't know what you will be doing, where in the country it'll be or what you will be paid. If you don't get a job then you can either leave the country or leave the legal profession. This is the case because you can never apply for a job again. Oh yeah, the job starts in 2 months and to be honest our computer systems are so crap we have no idea where our assess and elbows are.

So, you work for 5 years and are great at your job, you lose it, and are forced to apply for a job whose location, pay or work description are unknown... You don't get the job when everyone knows the system is not only unmerotocratic, it's dangerous. But to really kick you in the teeth, you must emigrate or leave the legal profession because there is NOONE else who can employ you...