11 January 2009

How the NHS treats young doctors

Dr Grumble thinks that it is much tougher being a doctor in today's NHS than most members of the public think. Here is a post Dr Grumble picked up from a doctors' chat room. It would do no good for this doctor to be identified so certain details have been changed:

I am getting married in July and have requested four days off. I'll be on a rota where leave is fixed. Swaps are not allowed. I applied to get unpaid leave but I have been told to pay for a locum which will cost around £2000. I just haven't got that sort of money at the moment. What can I do?

This problem happens again and again. If you tell people who work outside the NHS they find it hard to believe that any employer can behave in such a way. You might think the young doctor's consultant would be able to sort this out for him. You would be wrong. She is of the old school.

Dr Grumble thinks these poor young doctors need to invoke the Human Rights Act 1998. The first question is whether or not they have a right to get married. This fortunately is covered in Article 12:


Men and women of marriageable age have the right to marry and to found a family, according to the national laws governing the exercise of this right.

So does the doctor have to work when he would like leave to get married? This appears to be covered by Article 4:


No one shall be held in slavery or servitude.
No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour.
For the purpose of this Article the term “forced or compulsory labour” shall not include:
(a) any work required to be done in the ordinary course of detention imposed according to the provisions of Article 5 of this Convention or during conditional release from such detention;
(b) any service of a military character or, in case of conscientious objectors in countries where they are recognised, service exacted instead of compulsory military service;
(c) any service exacted in case of an emergency or calamity threatening the life or well-being of the community;
(d) any work or service which forms part of normal civic obligations.

Is the NHS showing respect for this doctor's family life? Does this doctor have any right to private and family life. This is covered by Article 8:


Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

So what can these poor young doctors do in such circumstances. Perhaps Remedy can help them. You just should not have to resort to legal action to solve problems like this. But sometimes in today's NHS that seems to be the only way.


madsadgirl said...

This is a totally ludicrous situation. The operation of this kind of rota shows that those who are responsible for drawing them up have no consideration for others,and seem to be totally unaware that doctors are humans too.

No rota can be set in stone so far in advance and to insist that no swaps can be accepted and that the doctor is responsible for paying for a locum if he takes unpaid leave, is draconian in the extreme.

These ridiculous rotas are presumably introduced by non-medical management and they will not have to work under such inhumane rules themselves being employed on nice Monday-Friday 9-5 contracts. Perhaps if they had to work under similar conditions to the doctors they would be a little more sympathetic.

the a&e charge nurse said...

Are you suggesting a young and vulnerable doctor should fight against the SYSTEM, Dr Grumble ?

Surely you'd have to be a diabetic consultant like Dr Shirine Boardman to have any realistic chance of beating them ?

Dr Grumble said...

Agreed A&E charge nurse. It is never a good idea to fight the system if you can avoid it whoever you are.

But what then is the way forward for this young doctor?

The thing that dismays me most about this sorry tale is that the consultant did not try and sort it out.

Jobbing Doctor said...

Grumble, I had one young doctor I was training who wanted to get married in India over Christmas 2008, and applied 6 months prior to this to get leave.

He was refused as it did not fit in with the Paediatricians' precious rota.

In the end, as they were not budging I (as his course organiser) decided to pull him from that job altogether, and they were left with nobody in post.

A small victory against the system.

We must celebrate them as the system usually crushes the individual - ask Shirine Boardman!

Dr Grumble said...

Your recent experience, JD, is testimony to the Grumble view that these sorts of occurrence are commonplace in today's NHS.

Anonymous said...

This is nothing new in the NHS. In 1970 I was a houseman when my grandmother died, I requested Thursday /Friday leave to travel 200 miles south for her funeral and was refused until I pointed out that the management had no second thoughts about allowing other doctors a couple of weeks to go to India to attend a funeral.I mentioned the Race Relations act.
Permission was then given.

jayann said...

I requested Thursday /Friday leave to travel 200 miles south for her (grandmother's)funeral and was refused until I pointed out that the management had no second thoughts about allowing other doctors a couple of weeks to go to India to attend a funeral.I mentioned the Race Relations act.

The hospital should be ashamed --ashamed of themselves for giving in to your silly and nasty attempt at blackmail. The Race Relations Act does not cover instances of giving people from Australia, India, Thailand, more time to go to a funeral (because the funeral's further away...) than someone whose grandparent lives in London (e.g.).

When my father died, I took a week's paid leave. I thanked the Senior Personnel Officer on my return, having thought there was a limit of 3 days; she told me the rule had been abolished in favour of a consideration of individual circumstance. My father had died suddenly and unexpectedly; I had to travel at very short notice; and so on. Someone whose parent's death was expected, and who did not have to travel, would be given far less time. Grandparents, well, I'd say there'd have been no leave.

Obviously if doctors were allowed to go to India or Australia to a grandparent's funeral you (and a black English doctor) should be given reasonable time to attend your grandparent's funeral. But something makes me think that isn't so (and your hospital should see a lawyer).