I’m officially back at work after a full year’s maternity leave, and it’s a strange mix of new and old at the office. New and old faces, new and old problems.
A team meeting on my first day back reassured me that some things never change: any of the agenda items could (and should) have been dealt with a year ago before I left. Things like organising a proper induction for the multitudes of new staff that have joined the service since our redesign a year and a half ago. Some new challenges include the sound of Zumba booming so loudly from downstairs in our new office that people have taken to wearing ear protectors at their desks. I’m told that on occasion people phoning in distress have wondered if we’re having an office party without them – if only!
The redesign has had many impacts, and I knew that my new colleagues would have different terms and conditions as they are employed by a different employer to work alongside and do the same job as NHS staff. What I didn’t know is that they get no extra pay for anti-social hours – none at all, even though they are required to do the same amount of nights, late shifts and weekends as people getting paid extra for them. They also get no sick pay: one colleague came in despite still being ill because she couldn’t afford the time off. Oh the irony of working in the NHS.
At a time when Jeremy Hunt is making himself so popular with junior doctors (this irony thing is catching!) I can’t help asking myself why the erosion of doctors’ terms and conditions is gaining such attention when their less well paid colleagues have already entirely lost theirs. And perhaps their fight against the new contract, which I entirely support as an attempt to prevent the destruction of the NHS, would be strengthened if they could unite with the struggle of others. Why haven’t the nurse’s union, the BMA and Unison all got together yet? It’s the NHS as a whole that is being attacked piece by piece: surely a whole NHS response would be more effective than a profession by profession response.