It wasn’t my initial intention to write this. In January, ITV news asked me to write something with a view to explaining my rational for participating in the first emergency cover model strike by junior doctors. The next day they published an article by retired Dr Henry Goodall: entitled “Current generation of doctors work less hard for more money and fewer hours”.
In his article Dr Goodall opened by referring to me by name, lamenting that my writing had made him ‘sad’. Reading through his article, Dr Goodall goes on to explain his experience as a newly qualified doctor in the 1970s. My thoughts on the usefulness of this sort of argument is not something I will really get in to here. It is enough to say that I am a big enough person to know that both generations of doctors experienced a different life. Each came with different pressures and different problems. Dr Goodall does not need my validation to know that the truth he is speaking was real for him. I do not need Dr Goodall’s validation to know that truth I speak is also very real for me. George Orwell said “every generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it”. For my part, I aim to have respect for the generation of doctors that came before me and it is my experience that the majority of senior consultants and GPs reciprocate.
Since Dr Goodall’s article I have heard his opinion quoted by several other news outlets. More recently, he has made a national broadcasting appearance and so, while it was my intention to let sleeping dogs lie, so to speak, it is clear that as a generation of doctors we are not to be given the same courtesy.
Shortly after Dr Goodall’s ITV news piece, I became aware of an article also by a Dr Henry N Goodall “Why I became an Occupational Physician”. The passages below have been taken from it.
“…I began to realise that…I could not longer practice medicine to the standard to which I had been trained in the National Health Service general practice, which was then being suffocated by stagnant bureaucracy and poor morale”
“I could see the future of the NHS and knew that it would take 10-15 years to happen. Several GP colleagues had fallen victim to illness, due to overwork. I decide that I wanted to live beyond the age of 50 years”
The article continues to chart Dr Goodall’s journey to full time occupational medicine , starting with his post at The Ford Motor Company.
I do not think it is necessary for me to say much more. Those are apparently Dr Goodall’s own words. It may however be interesting for him to know that I also feel ‘suffocated by stagnant bureaucracy and poor morale’ and I too know the pain of having to see colleagues physical and mental health suffer.
So in the end, it would seem we are not so different after all.