‘Why sometime’s I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast’ The Red Queen said to a bewildered Alice and being a supporter of believing the impossible, she advised young Alice that she must practice, just a little bit every day.
This morning I decided to believe that the junior contract row was behind us. I believed that I was sitting in a cafe catching up on clinical evidence base on my morning off. I believed I was going to work the following day happy and content in the knowledge that the NHS was going to support me to give my patients the best I had to offer them. It was a nice day dream. The past eight weeks have been tough going, battle lines are drawn just a little bit deeper every day and perhaps it has gotten to the point where we cannot even see each other above our respective trenches. For what it is worth, I will tell you how it all came good. At least in my dream anyway.
It started when one junior doctor realised we all wanted the same thing. It doesn’t matter who it was, but they were strong enough to stand up and say we both want excellent patient care and we both want a happy workforce. There were many other voices that scoffed and rightly pointed out all the evidence to the contrary and that the actions of the Department of Health, from the outset had spoken louder than words. That person was adamant however, that acknowledging the good, no matter how small, on both sides was the way forward and after all ‘forward’ was somewhere that was better than we they were now.
After that something unexpected happened. A group of people at the Department of Health, feeling safer in the knowledge that the medical community didn’t in fact see them as intrinsically evil saw what was staring them right in the face all along. That they had handled this entire situation very badly. They looked at each other and thought, ‘how did we get here?’ and more importantly they thought ‘how do we get out?’. It was at that time that strike action loomed, junior doctors lamented that they had been left with only this option and each day their trust in the Department of Health, guardian of their NHS, dwindled further and further. Fifty thousand angry and frightened junior doctors are not easy to approach and so that group of people in the Department of Health knocked on a door.
‘Mr Hunt’ they said ‘we need to know what it is that we can do to make this situation right, we are the guardians of the NHS and we owe to it the workforce and millions of people reliant on them to fix it. We must be able to say we did all we could’
Mr Hunt was silent for a time. He had been used to taking on the weight of difficult decisions, something which oddly enough those tens of thousands of doctors had a unique understanding of. Nevertheless, the past eight weeks had been a trying time for him. He looked down and then looked at his colleagues and said ‘we will invite the BMA to fresh negotiations, this time there will be no preconditions and we will remove the current threat of imposition pending outcome of these talks’.
That evening the BMA junior doctor’s committee chairperson received the invite; no preconditions, no imminent imposition. A clean slate was in itself unnerving. Now that they had reached a point where they could actually be listened too, what suggestions did they have? Supported by thousands of junior doctors however, he took up the challenge of negotiating an outcome that was right for both sides and most importantly for patients. The rest, as they say is history.
Albus Dumbledore told us, ‘it does not do to dwell in dreams, and forget to live’ and for my part, I think he has a point. So for now, I will continue to live the reality of this junior contract row. And I will give it everything I have got.
PS – for those of you who are upset by my dreaming, you will have to excuse the temporary break from reality (‘a little nonsense now and then….’ ). Normal service will resume presently.