Below is the full text of today's speech by HCSA delegate and Council member Dr Lottie Elliott, speaking at the TUC Women's Conference 2018 in London in support of Composite 3 "Achieving Work-Life Balance in the NHS", moved by the Royal College of Midwives and the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy:
Chair, conference. My name is Lottie Elliott, representing the Hospital Consultants & Specialists Association – the HCSA.
I am an A&E doctor based in the Mersey region. As a doctor on the front line, I am exposed to the evidence of how the NHS is sadly crumbling around us on a daily basis - patients queueing in the corridors, 12-hour waits to be seen, a chronic shortage of beds, poorly people being left at home as the ambulance crews are too busy to go and get them – they are all outside our front door.
I am sick of apologising for something that is not my fault and abysmal conditions that the government has caused.
I work an understaffed rota on a contract which has just been imposed on us against our will.
I work long and intense shifts. When I get home I am just too tired physically and emotionally to do anything but eat and sleep.
I am confident our patients deserve to be treated better.
I love my job when all said and done, but I do not feel that I can go on until I am in my late 60s unless I have better access to a good work-life balance.
I am not on my own with feeling the stress. In 2017, the HCSA found that a third of doctors reported “unreasonable levels of work stress most or all of the time,” and that workplace stress was increasing.
This is not helped by the move towards a “seven-day” working NHS which neglects to see doctors as human beings.
I know of one doctor who was in tears as she was being forced to work weekends. The only quality time she had with her son. Isn’t it a right to have a family life?
One of my close friends has left medicine altogether as she could not manage her training and two young children. Getting a flexible childminder was a constant worry. Finishing in time was a constant challenge, and pressures from work would impact on her sleep and wellbeing.
I feel so sad that a caring, intelligent and talented doctor has had to give it all up because she felt she had no other options and the opportunity for a good work-life balance just does not exist in the NHS.
For her, there was little flexible about flexible working. She is not the only one – we are approaching a 50-50 gender split between men and women doctors, because a majority of new doctors are female.
Yet the specialist register, which represents Consultants, is still predominantly male.
There exists a gender imbalance and I am confident one reason for this is poor access to flexible working coupled with the role of women as carers for their families.
I am 30, but I would like to have children. But I fear I will fall behind my peers, be penalised for taking time out, and be used to plug rota gaps.
My wish is that I am no longer seen as just a number or name on a rota, but respected, valued and viewed as an actual human being. Please support this motion.