How our doctors have been let down

AS you may have heard, I recently broke my fibula after falling off a hay bale while feeding cattle. I have played around with that sentence but there is really no way of putting it which makes it sound any better! For a couple of days I thought (hoped) i

AS you may have heard, I recently broke my fibula after falling off a hay bale while feeding cattle. I have played around with that sentence but there is really no way of putting it which makes it sound any better!

For a couple of days I thought (hoped) it may only have been a strain and I was pretty shocked when I was shown the x-ray. The prognosis is that I will be hobbling about on crutches until the end of April, which is obviously a major inconvenience. But, thanks to my wife Ava, I have been able to keep up with my constituency engagements. It's great to have a chauffeur who tolerates my back seat driving and knows the constituency like the back of her hand!

My colleagues have been slightly less understanding, as you might imagine. I can't show my plaster-casted foot around Parliament without someone making a comment like "perhaps you should only try to make hay when the sun shines", "take more water with it" or "given the amount of press you're getting you should break the other leg".

Thankfully the treatment I have been receiving from the NHS is considerably better. In fact, this whole experience has not only reaffirmed my admiration for everyone involved in the National Health Service, but given me a first-hand insight into the level of disaffection among doctors.


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As soon as the staff knew I was an MP all their grief came pouring out, including an excellent young doctor who told me exactly what she thought of the Government's new national recruitment and selection process.

This is leaving thousands of highly qualified doctors without good training posts and pretty demoralised. Young doctors are having to reapply for their jobs and are subjected to an absurd scoring system where a PhD is worth one point, but composing a 150-word answer to a question about how the applicant has coped with stress is worth up to four.

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How can applicants' academic achievements, clinical experience and references be treated as so unimportant in decisions on appointments to training posts? This is a question I have been asked not only during my time in hospital, but by local doctors in exactly the same position at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge.

The fact is, junior doctors have been abysmally let down by a Government whose own minister in the House of Lords said in December that doctors in training 'should be confident about securing a training post' despite the fact that there are only 23,000 of these for 32,000 eligible applicants. It is of no surprise that many are attracted by the lure of working in Canada and Australia, where jobs are both secure and valued.

Unless appropriate action is taken now, the problems will escalate towards the beginning of August, when junior doctors are due to start their training. By that time many excellent doctors may not have places, others may be placed in inappropriate posts and more still may be lost to the profession or to other countries.

This would be an absolute travesty and it is patient care - the kind that was so warmly and professionally given to me - that will suffer.

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