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Reading the thoughts of an NHS doctor who wrote about his disappointment that none of his medical students protested about a rise in student fees, I wasn’t at all surprised.

Medical students are too scared to protest out of fear they will be discriminated against.

With a fire extinguisher being hurled at policemen, a young man with cerebral palsy being pushed from his wheelchair and dragged across a street and kettles leaving young people trapped in freezing conditions for hours, is it any shock that medical students who are CRB checked and need to have a clean criminal record stay away?

Being a final year medical student from the pre-top up fee era, my education has cost around £1,200 a year in tuition fees, add that to: accommodation, books, food, smart ward clothes, petrol and car running costs to get to placements and general living costs and I’ll be starting my first job in around £42,000 of debt.

During my first job I will earn a basic salary of £24,000 a year, being in this much debt on a very average salary absolutely terrifies me, however future medical students look set to be a whooping £54,600 higher in debt than me (£63,000 in tuition fees based on seven years at university).

£63,000 debt only to work for the NHS for the rest of your life

Medical students don’t deserve that sort of debt when they will spend the rest of their lives working for the NHS.

This fee rise won’t affect me as I’ll be graduating soon but as someone who struggled through education as I’m the first person in the family to make it to university, I dread to consider, that had I been born a few years later, I may simply have had to give up my dream.

I wish that I could show my support at the protests but I can’t due to a combination of timetabled hospital duties and being absolutely petrified that my face would appear on the news amongst a small number of troublemakers and could affect me for the rest of my life.

“Professional suicide me thinks”

We live in a time when too much emphasis is put on doctors being perfect both outside of their job as well as inside, to the extent that I felt I had to get permission from my medical school and anonymously from the GMC just to go on a reality television show during my summer holiday.  But that didn’t stop certain acquaintances coming out with comments such as:

“Can u believe sunshine’s in it. omg! professional suicide me thinks”

“I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone whose actually made a decision they’ll regret for the rest of their life”.

It doesn’t matter that I have passed my exams, that I have glowing reports from consultants I have worked under and that I really care about my patients.  Because we live in an age where proving you are an actual human being on television in your own time or marching in a protest which turns nasty through no fault of your own, could harm your career despite having all the qualities that patients want in a doctor.

When I asked my medical school for permission, the doctor I spoke to said it was a sad thing that students felt they couldn’t do what they wanted in their own time for fear of fitness to practice issues.  And in his words: “We’ve had a Miss Wales, we’ve had sporting achievements and now we’ll have you.”

I will always believe in the notion that if I get brought before a panel to discuss something as trivial as peacefully protesting or an appearance on tv, then I would insist that every single doctor in the country with any form of a criminal record is stuck off before me.  I hope other medical students take the same viewpoint and are brave enough to attend the protests.

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By Yvette Martyn

stephoscope

A doctor with HIV has been unfairly treated by the media

I was absolutely appalled to read the way a newspaper report described a doctor working with HIV.

The Sun’s article read, “hundreds of hospital patients feared to have been treated by a doctor with HIV.” Whilst his patients are described as, “people he potentially infected.”

Even though, of 7000 similar patients at risk of contracting the infection over a 5 year period, not one tested positive.

The article is aimed at revealing the delayed action by the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS trust, which took two years to compile a list of his patients.

The Doctor also worked at Kettering General Hospital, they insisted the risk of contracting the virus was small. So small in fact, that the hospital told the BBC that 28 similar programs of notification between 1998 and 2003 meant 7000 people were told they were at risk but not one person tested positive.

Second class citizens

People who have HIV are not second class citizens; occupational health ensures that all precautions necessary are taken to protect patients from contracting the virus. But healthcare workers can still practice safely in certain specialties without putting patients at risk.

In 2007 an unnamed doctor wrote an article for the Guardian describing the aftermath of his diagnosis with HIV. In it he describes his:

  • Fear that his colleagues would recognise his condition by the tell tale signs.
  • Dread that his career was over.
  • Relief when he was informed that as he wasn’t a surgeon and didn’t perform invasive procedures he could continue to work.
  • Reading of literature on safe practice.
  • Choosing of a specialty which ensured he didn’t pass the infection to his patients.

The doctor stated that his colleagues were unsupportive when he came out as HIV positive. He told The Guardian, “You might think medicine would be an enlightened working environment for the chronically ill, but the NHS doesn’t do sick doctors very well.”

Workers should not fear discrimination

HIV is an occupational hazard of healthcare due to needlestick injuries (involving a needle stabbing the skin, sometimes resulting in exposure to body fluids). Now I’m not saying the doctor concerned in The Sun contracted the virus on the job. But all healthcare workers should not fear discrimination by patients and colleagues.

The NHS ensures healthcare workers practice in a safe way following a diagnosis with HIV. The Sun’s, “Doc’s HIV kept from patients” does very little to allow workers to practice without the fear of prejudice.

Image: Suat Eman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net