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Camden New Journal - One Week with JOHN GULLIVER
Published:4 January 2007

Sir Liam Donaldson and left a part of the message board
I’d love to tell you what the doctors said... but I can’t

FACED with unemployment junior doctors are using raw language on their internet message board to lambast Britain’s Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson.
I would like to publish a sample of these messages to Donaldson to give a flavour of their anger but the language is simply unprintable to give them in full.
It is so bad, in fact, that some messages sent just before Christmas Day were deleted by the editors of the message board – but not before they had probably been seen by hundreds of doctors who use it regularly.
In a fake answer-and-question session on one message board I saw, a doctor asks Donaldson: “What will happen to me?”
Donaldson’s fake reply reads: “You will be a*** f***ed.”
Another doctor asks what will happen if he decides to apply for another type of job, such as a General Practitioner’s post?
“Everyone is doing the same thing”, replies Donaldson “you will therefore be a*** f***ed.”
The doctors are furious because they believe that changes to their training, and a failure to calculate how many junior jobs are required under a shake-up of the system in the coming weeks, could lead to hundreds of young doctors ending up jobless.
Unbelievably, at a time when the government is making all sorts of claims that the NHS is getting better and better, and that waiting times for operations are shortening, a cursory examination of the lives of medics shows that hospital life isn’t quite how Whitehall paints it.
A survey by a pressure group of junior doctors, RemedyUK, reveals that a third of trainee surgeons in the south-east will be unemployed next month. Under the NHS contractual system for junior doctors many of them spend six months at a time in each job – and this is one of the times of the year when they would expect to switch to a new post.
I have spoken to several junior doctors at hospitals in Camden who are clearly anxious about their future. Some are talking about emigrating to Australia – or making arrangements to go to the US.
In recent months the recruitment scene has been made worse by the huge deficits facing hospitals many of which have decided not to fill posts – even those now occupied by consultants who will shortly retire.
A failure to match posts to the growing numbers of doctors leaving medical schools, as well as the introduction of a confusing new system of recruitment called Modernising Medical Careers – dreamed up by Whitehall policy advisors – could cause mayhem among junior doctors.

Cold medal for Liz

IT may be a hardy English tradition dating back 100 years but it was American-born Elizabeth Knowles (pictured left) who won the ladies race at the Heath men’s pond annual Christmas Day swim which attracted a bumper crowd.
The 46-year-old mother of three, originally from Pennsylvania, is a member of the Camden Swiss Cottage swim club – but a relatively recent convert to the joys of winter swimming.
“A friend of mine who’s a regular on the Heath swore by it,” she told me, from her home in Parliament Hill yesterday (Wednesday).
“If you talk to any of the women there, they call it the fountain of youth.”
“It’s addictive – it’s just absolutely wonderful. If you do a lot of sport, it’s really good for healing your muscles. I guess it’s the same principle behind taking cold showers.”
Although she is convinced that they should have given the award to the woman who’d stayed in the longest.
“I was in and out as quickly as possible – in well under five minutes,” she said. “Some of the women who were coming out looked a little purple. I think they deserved it more than me.”
Ms Knowles, formerly a graphic designer, is of course better known in South End Green for her work with the South End Green Association (Sega). She is currently Sega’s membership secretary and treasurer.

* OTHER winners were Malcolm George (pictured below) in the Highgate Lifebouys race Chris Ruocco was runner up and Aaron Murphy won the Men’s race.

Farewell to a screen giant

I AM sad to note that a man I much admired, Andi Engel, who brought art cinema to Camden, died on Boxing Day at 64 while visiting his home country Germany.
Mr Engel was a man of many parts. Obviously, he would never have opened such cinemas as the Plaza in Camden Town, later a cinema in St Martin’s Lane, and then the Renoir in Bloomsbury, if he had not loved art films, aware that there were too few of them in London. But he was much more than a cineaste – he was also a deep political thinker, attracted to the avante garde ideas that swept Germany and France in the 1960s.
He moved to London in the mid-1960s and established Artificial Eye, a film distribution company based in Covent Garden.
When both the Plaza in Camden Town and his St Martin’s Lane venue could no longer be sustained, he concentrated on making a success of the Renoir.
It was typical of the man that whenever campaigning groups wanted to use the Renoir as a venue, he was only too glad to help.
Chris Reeves, of the Socialist Film Co-op who use the Renoir for screenings, told me: “He was so easy to get on with.
“When we asked him for permission to use the cinema, he didn’t hesitate.”

* A full obituary and tribute to Andi Engel will appear next week.

Ford’s flag day

A STRANGE sight as I walked through Hampstead last week, the flags on the police station flying at half mast.
For whom was this sign of respect and mourning ordered, as I discovered, at every police station in the borough?
Gerald Ford, President of the USA between 1974 and 1976, who died last Wednesday aged 93.
I have nothing in particular against the Republican president, but I did have to ask quite how his death affected the people of Camden. A quick call to Camden police yielded the answer. The flags were lowered on the orders of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, the lair of Tessa Jowell.
What could a Blairite loyalist possibly see in the story of a man who attained the highest office by a mid-term transfer of power without ever being elected, but fell at the first electoral hurdle after governing for a mere two years?

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