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Camden New Journal - One Week with JOHN GULLIVER
Published:24 May 2007
Docs consider union over online ‘disaster’

JUDY King, a cancer researcher at the Royal Free, left the High Court yesterday (Wednesday) a disappointed woman.
She had hoped – as one of the organisers of a national doctors’ pressure group – that a judge would have backed their arguments that the government’s chaotic online recruitment system should be scrapped.
MPs of all parties had condemned it – senior medical figures in the country had lambasted it. This week the chairman of the British Medical Association resigned over it.
But most of all, 32,000 hospital doctors looking for a post had spent sleepless nights worrying about how it may ruin their careers. They knew there weren’t enough jobs for them all – only 18,000 posts were being advertised.
But Mr Justice Goldring – though obviously sympathetic to their cause – came down, reluctantly, on the side of the government.
Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt wasn’t in the court, but I’m sure that last night she was smarting over Justice Goldring’s withering remarks, describing the on-line systen as “disastrous” and having a “premature introduction”.
“It is not surprising that many junior doctors feel upset, anger and a real sense of grievance,” he said.
However, as many had predicted, he ruled that any delay would put the recruitment timetable at risk – all jobs have to be filled by August 1.
Judy King told me on the steps of the court that like thousands of doctors in Britain – including several at the Free – she did not know whether she would get a job in August.
“We’re all worried about it,” she said. “It has become a slightly random process. I have a husband, I am based in London. I can’t go to Australia, for example, even if I am offered a post there.
“The practicality for me is that I would be out of a job.”
Imagine what that means. Doctors like Ms King, whom this country badly needs, may be thrown on to the scrapheap.
Whose fault is this? While the Tories starved the NHS of badly needed investment in the 80s and 90s, Labour attempted to make amends, but still failed to create enough posts in hospitals.
The price is now being paid by young doctors whose plight seems beyond the comprehension of Patricia Hewitt judging by her confused answers to questions in the Commons.
To rub it in, junior doctors feel they have been led by donkeys – the British Medical Association.
Yet, from this sense of disillusionment, comes a ray of hope.
For the first time they are talking about forming a real trade union.
A hint came from a founder of Remedy UK, Mat Shaw, a consultant at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore.
“We will continue to support doctors in the future or, if necessary, form a new doctors’ trade union,” he told me.
I sensed the same rebellious spirit I had found in the extraordinary protest march of 10,000 doctors in London in March.
Meanwhile, the architect of the system, criticised by Mr Justice Goldring, Patricia Hewitt, along with her mentor, Tony Blair, paid a flying, and secret, visit to the Free on Monday.
Few of the 6,000 staff knew they were being conducted around the new Medical Assessment Union (See page 6).
If they had known, I’m sure Judy King and her colleagues would have let them know how doctors feel about the shambles their recruitment system has caused.

How Illtyd made Buddhist friend

MY colleague, Illtyd Harrington, our literary editor, has been called many things in his life, but I never knew that once he had been likened to a revered Buddhist spirit!

This surprising observation was made by a famous Buddhist from Japan whom he had befriended in the 80s while chairman of the Greater London Council.
It was made during one of many visits to London by the Most Venerable Nichidatsu Fujii who was collaborating with Illtyd over the construction of the Peace Pagoda in Battersea Park.
Out of the blue, Fujii turned to Illtyd and described how he appeared to be the “reincarnation” of a leading Buddhist spirit.
Yesterday (Wednesday), Iltyd flew to Japan to a conference at the birthplace of Fujii where he will be the principal speaker.
It marks the 25th anniversary of Fujii’s death.

cyclist sets out on epic journey to fight poverty

STUDENT Sam Moore (pictured) was so struck by the poverty he saw around him on a trip to Ghana last year that he will set out on an epic bike ride to Africa on Monday to raise cash.
Sam, 22, is swapping the comfort of his home in South Hill Park for the gruelling 2,000-mile trek, through France, across the Pyrenees into southern Spain, into Gibraltar and then to Morocco.
The money raised will go towards the Tembaletu School which helps poor disabled children near Cape Town and the Orthopaedic Training Centre in Nsawam in Ghana, which provides artificial limbs for children with amputations and other deformities.
“I had travelled before and seen some poverty but not like the level I saw in Africa,” he told me.
“After that, everything seemed quite relative. Some of the people I met would have starved for months if their crops failed.”
To support Sam, e-mail for a sponsorship form.

Slavery in frame

LADY Mansfield, wife of the 8th Earl of Mansfield, swapped Scone Palace in Scotland for Kenwood House yesterday (Wednesday) to open a new exhibition on slavery and justice.

Her ancestor, William Murray, the 1st Earl of Mansfield, lived at Kenwood House in the 18th century.
The twice-Lord Justice also adopted Dido Elizabeth Belle, the illegitimate daughter of his nephew Sir John Lindsay and an enslaved African woman.
A painting of Dido and her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray, who were raised in the House together, goes on display from tomorrow – lent to the exhibition by the Mansfields.
n Slavery and Justice: the legacies of Lord Mansfield and Dido Belle, at Kenwood until September 2.
Read more about the exhibition in the New Journal next week.

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