I can’t say I have any sympathy with the junior doctors – wherever I went in London yesterday they were out there – in front of tube stations as well as hospitals, pressing their cause.
Seeing them standing there, looking to me like well-to-do students, the word 'entitlement' sprang to mind. That, I thought, is what this is about. Far from their strike being about patient 'safety' as they would have us believe, it is all about the doctors themselves – their comforts and egos.
Promotional pictures of them all over the press displaying their hashtags and virtue signalling credentials said it all. "I am the doctor who breathes for you during your operation", one of the many signs read. Do they really think they should be paid to to breathe?
What their hashtag campaign actually breathes is the new rights, entitlement and selfie culture they inhabit. They don’t know how lucky they are.
Don’t be a doctor – don’t take a scarce place at medical school that guarantees you not just a well paid job but a lifetime career – if you don’t want to put in the hours. Don’t grab a job security that no one else can be sure of.
Their campaign breathes dishonesty at every level.
What they are really asking is that the government, the NHS, and we – the public – respect the modern, selfish and self-obsessed culture of rights they inhabit.
So young yet so well-versed in the arts of doublespeak are they! And for that we can thank the modern education they’ve received. It's certainly not one that has taught them a sense of public duty or the gratitude they should feel for their medical training. Rather it’s taught them all about their work/life balance rights which, in straightforward English, means better pay for an easier time.
Thank God we are not at war and heaven help us if we were. Junior doctors would no doubt say they were too tired to operate 'safely' – never mind the queue of patients at risk of bleeding to death.
They seem to be singularly out of touch with the real world. It is ironic that these representatives of the most pro-EU generation seem blissfully unaware of their good fortune – compared with the near 25-50 per cent of young people (educated ones too) who are unemployed in many other European countries.
However, the Government only has itself to blame. They have been hoist by their own petard. Modern family-friendly work culture – yes the one that they have so assiduously encouraged with their gender equality legislation – does not go hand in hand with a public service ethos.
Jeremy Hunt can’t have his cake and eat it. Paternity leave and long or unsocial hours are antithetical. Modernisation – which means feminisation of the workforce – has come back to bite the hand that’s fed it.
I am amazed he doesn’t get it. Dominic Lawson highlighted it just a few weeks ago. He described a society split not just between gender and generation but between the public and private sectors.
Lawson contrasted an older (male) doctor versus a young woman doctor – one typical of the young women driving the strike. "In 1998 I was elected a fellow of the BMA in recognition of outstanding service", the older male said before going on to damn the present-day doctors' union (BMA) for its withdrawal of labour. He said the young doctors were "pressing the financial needs of the profession, giving little thought to patient care, ethical practice or the need for out-of-hours care". He finished by saying that "this is not the same organisation I was once proud to serve." He, like Dr Henry Goodall, who spoke on the Today programme on Wednesday, represents an era before the medical profession and the NHS had been comprehensively feminised.
The young (women) doctors of today speak a very different language – and have very different values.
As I have written on this site before, girls increasingly dominate places at medical school and in the profession. Governments, however, remain blind to the consequences of this – a shortfall in staffing and quality of care. Women do not share men's commitment to work. Their demands for part-time and family-friendly working conditions have changed the culture of the profession too– negatively. The current strike action is an example of how feminisation corrupts the attitudes of their remaining male colleagues. They too have adopted the women’s self-interested producer capture culture.
No wonder the 'tears' they talk about, no wonder the NHS is an unhappy place to work.
Yet it costs some £500,000 to bring each medical student up to the status of a fully trained professional – only a good investment if paid back through long hours when they are young. No government could afford to increase places on the returns they get from short hours at the bedside.
But instead of facing up to this, gender equality obsessed governments have made matters worse – paternity leave legislation being a case in point.
All this, as Dr Howard Goodall pointed out, is the creation of an inexperienced profession. Young doctors need to put in long hours; it is how they gain their very necessary expertise. Their apprenticeship for the consultant posts they eventually seek consists of the 'hours' they need to both encounter and observe 'the natural history of disease'. How else can they learn their trade?
Dr Reena Aggarwal, the young woman doctor on Today programme with Dr Goodall, was outraged. "Thank God those days are over", she said.
She might thank God, but which of these doctors would you trust most with your care in a medical crisis? Dr Reena Aggarwal or Dr Howard Goodall who trained along with his mainly male colleagues back in the 1960s? I know who I would pick.
(Image: Garry Knight, Flickr)