What do medicine students think of the proposed NHS changes?
Almost all of them want to leave the country.
In the Soton Tab’s recent survey, we asked medicine students at Southampton University how they think the proposed NHS changes will affect them.
Junior doctors have just won a major victory by voting, by 98 per cent of the vote, to strike in protest at the government changes and are now preparing three days of action in December.
Iona Maxwell, President of MedSoc and in her fourth year at Southampton, told us: “Junior doctors are often our main and best source of teaching [when on placement] – if they are feeling overworked or stressed this will affect their available time and ability to teach us.”
In regards to the planned action in December, she says that students would feel like they would be undermining their colleagues if they went in to work at placements.
She also affirmed that she now plans to work abroad after graduating rather than go into the NHS: “As soon as possible after I qualify – if the contracts go through.
“The changes have definitely made me reconsider my options. Looking to the future, I wouldn’t want to let my children down and not be around for them. I’m a lot less motivated to work as I don’t feel that I’ll be rewarded for it at the end.”
However, Stanley, third year, said: “To move to the US requires years of exams, while I would not be comfortable with uprooting my whole life in England to move to Australia. Unfortunately, I don’t speak any other European language, so that is also out of the question.
“I do not think it is feasible to move to another country, and I would question any students’ motivation to study medicine if they change career to one with greater financial benefits.
“I am still motivated to obtain a medical degree, and none of the cuts affect the way in which I approach my modules.
“I would still encourage people interested in studying Medicine to do so. A medical degree is always valuable. If the student is worried about student loans, many people now do a masters degree, which would take the studying time to only a year less than a medical degree. I would not reconsider doing medicine if I had the choice to.”
Jameson, a fourth year medic, told us: “I feel that the medical school here at Southampton could do a lot more to engage with the problems that we’re facing. They look after students who need help, sure, but they don’t appear to be showing much interest in our future welfare regarding the contract. The changes aren’t really giving me cause to be motivated right now.
“The only change to my career path is maybe changing specialities to one which would be more comfortable, even if I’m not really interested in it. I always said that I wanted to stay within the NHS here in the UK. I felt that going abroad was a betrayal. If those that run the NHS continue to push through what they’re planning, in terms of junior doctor contracts, then places like Australia and New Zealand become that much more attractive. Both financially and non-financially, those that work abroad appear to have a much greater quality of life.
“I would still tell students today to study medicine as it’s still the number one profession in which they can help to improve another’s quality of life. I’d of course be inclined to tell them just how much of a knock their quality of life will likely take to be able to call themselves a junior doctor. I wouldn’t reconsider doing the degree, either.
“Myself and my colleagues could apply for jobs in the city after graduation and earn huge sums of money. More than we ever will or could as doctors in the NHS. I’ll admit to spending half an hour looking at internships one evening, but it’s not for me. I’m going to be a doctor in 2 years time. More tired and financially worse off than I should be, but still a doctor.”
Noorunisa Suhail, a third year medic, said: “I’ve been thinking a lot about my career. What is the point in working so hard, getting so much debt, to just be unappreciated and working in a hostile environment? But the changes have made me thinking about why I am doing this. I want to change people’s lives and I love medicine, so I can’t imagine doing anything else. However, I’m now considering moving abroad once I graduate.
“Some of my friends were already thinking about taking the USMLE so that they can work in America. I wasn’t keen because I feel a loyalty to the UK as the government spend so much money training doctors. But now, life as a clinician in America seems much more appealing than in comparison to here. Even in places like the UAE. Anywhere but here, really.
“I want to start a family in the future, even whilst I’m still relatively young. I’m not going to put those dreams on hold for my work, but I will now probably have to think very carefully about when the right time is. For me, those things will always come before my career.”
Aimee Falla, a fourth year told us: “I’m in my fourth year and it’s too late to change my mind now. Even if I could I probably wouldn’t as I didn’t come into medicine expecting an easy ride, but these changes will be a huge kick in the teeth.
“The amount of money you can earn abroad is crazy, plus in many places you aren’t expected to do as much. Having said that, I don’t think I could ever leave the NHS. I wouldn’t recommend starting Medicine though, if you are a Sixth Former. Being a doctor is no longer a stable career that you can rely on.
“If I were to go back though I would still apply as I didn’t get into medicine for money. There is none of it in the NHS, anyway. I don’t think I would be truly happy doing something else. You get into it for the people and my desire for that hasn’t changed. It’s now just being taken advantage of.
“I do worry that the changes will affect my personal life. But for me having a family is non-negotiable, and I would leave medicine if this was not possible.”
Matt Roberts, fourth year, said: “Once I am qualified, I am seriously considering moving away from the UK once I am qualified and specialised. This has quite a bit to do with the contract changes, but also in general the prevailing right-wing political environment of the UK.
“I study medicine because I want a life that operates around improving the world and helping people. My long-term goal has always been to work in humanitarian aid abroad, however I’m now considering permanently shifting abroad.
“I’ve found myself and NHS workers increasingly demoralised. I’d say it’s part of a larger plan to destabilise and degrade the NHS to the point where poor performance provides an excuse for privatisation. It’s all rubbing off on students. I would never actively discourage someone from studying medicine so long as they were interested for the right reasons.
“They will face long hours and poor pay, and that they should pursue medicine out of a passion for the field and its values. I wouldn’t come into it thinking it’s a good way to make money. It’s not, and even less so now.”