What makes someone want to make a real difference, not only on a personal level but on a national level? Is it a flicker that grows stronger over time, or an event that sparks an explosion?
The ongoing Junior Doctor Contract debacle, has made Jeremy Hunt public enemy no.1 of the majority of employees within the NHS. However, on the positive side, it has given doctors the opportunity to finally have their voice heard.
During the course of the last year, we have seen media wranglings, rants, resignations, apologies and breakdowns. Yet how many of us have actually stopped to consider how the prominent activists in the junior doctor contract campaign, came to be in the first place.
More importantly, what have they had to sacrifice as a result of their activism and media prominence?
Below are six of the junior doctor activists (excluding leaders of the BMA Junior Doctors Committee) who have featured heavily in the media in the past year;
Dr Ben White
Job: Ex-Medical Registrar
Highlight: Quitting his job on ITV Morning News to focus on Justice 4 Health legal campaign against the Secretary of State for imposing the Junior Doctors Contract
Our Summary: Ben has written open letters to both Jeremy Hunt and David Cameron. Having resigned his post on live TV, the majority of his efforts raising over £52, 000 with his group Justice 4 Health – a group of NHS doctors who are currently fighting the imposition of the junior doctor contract. Ben effectively uses social media with 8247 followers and public events like the NHS privatisation rally below, to raise awareness of this cause.
Job: Trauma and Orthopaedic Registrar
Highlight: TV Interview on Channel 4 News.
Our summary: Roshana has become somewhat of a media starlet in the last year on her opposition to the proposed junior doctor contract. Having featured in several interviews on various news channels and a recent appearance in Stylist magazine, she is now a secretary of NHS Survival – an umbrella group bringing together patients, public and professionals to call for action to ensure the survival of the NHS.
Job: Specialist Diseases Registrar & BMA Junior Doctor Committee member
Highlight: Writing an open letter on BMA website addressed to Jeremy Hunt and work with the BMA Junior Doctor Committee
Our Summary: Yannis can appear as a formidable and highly outspoken character, appearing at the head of the strike actions and protests as a true trade unionist. His rhetoric includes protecting the NHS against Tory cuts and privatisation.
Job: Intensive Care & Clinical Pharmacology Registrar
Highlight: Confronting Jeremy Hunt on camera about his decision to impose a new contract on medics
Our Summary: Dr Lonsdale in an interview with the Guardian in February 2016 said that he and his wife would seriously contemplate whether they would be able to work in the NHS if the contract terms were imposed. Patient safety would be at risk. He also spent considerable time sitting outside the Department of Health trying to coax Jeremy and David Cameron back to the table when negotiations fell flat earlier this year.
Job: Obstetrics & Gynaecology Registrar
Highlight: Video diary on the life of a Junior Doctor and Interview on ITV News
Our Summary: Reena sums it up well in her interview – punishing shifts and exhausted doctors compromise patient safety. She is fearful about a return to the 145 hour working weeks worked by some doctors in the 1990’s.
We’ll be asking Reena about her experiences at our ACW event.
Job: Locum A&E Doctor
Highlight: Exposing the understaffed intensive care unit at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Woolwich and fighting for the lack of protection that is available to whistleblowers. He brought a claim for unfair dismissal and whistleblowing detriment against Health Education England and Lewisham & Greenwich NHS Trust. The outcome of the case will be of huge importance for 54,000 junior doctors.
Summary: By exposing the understaffing in the NHS, Chris has drawn attention to an important issue. One that is likely to be exacerbated by the proposed junior doctor contracts. By doing so, he has potentially sacrificed his career, as he has been unable to find permanent work since the incident. Should the case find in Chris’s favour, 54,000 junior doctors will be able to rely on whistleblowing protection.
Many of us underestimate the risks of activism and the real unseen sacrifices that these individuals make.
Depression, anxiety and burnout among activists is well documented and very real.
The constant requirement to be switched on, alert, engaged, passionate about the cause and accessible is a huge responsibility in combination with the challenges associated with practicing medicine.
Self-awareness, boundaries and preventative self-care methods are essential for activists to sustain a healthy balance for their physical and mental health.
For these doctors, none of us can imagine what lies beneath the surface of their ultra-marathon battle to achieve the best for their patients, colleagues and the country. Nevertheless, recognition for their astounding efforts is very well deserved.
Check out the wellbeing section of our site for more tips on self-care during challenging times.