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FROM ORANGE SUIT TO GREY SUIT

15-03-2007

Dr David Nicholls reflects on a curious 12 months in which he thought he might be shying away from the limelight. Then the government pressed ahead with it's much-derided plans for recruiting the next generation of medical specialists…

A year is a long time. 12 months ago this week, I opened up a can of worms regarding the abuses of prisoners in Guantanamo. Ironically, I was self-conscious that others might just view me as a nutty doctor who liked dressing up so I felt I'd better take on another responsibility- be a bit more grown up for change!

I knew that one of my colleagues wanted to relinquish his responsibility for overseeing training of neurology trainees in the West Midlands. Sounded a pretty safe bet for a retiring activist?? Wrong.

A year later with the chaos of the Modernising Medical Careers system (check out the most recent report on The Stirrer) I find it surreal that exactly the same techniques that I used with Guantanamo of writing to my MP, lobbying and generally giving politicians and others a hard time have proved my most important asset.

Put simply, if MMC had been around in 1993 (when I made the decision to be a neurologist) I would never have made it.

In the last few months, I have never seen the medical profession so vexed. As we speak, there are posters on the walls of City Hospital with “Join the March” or “Well done City Surgeons” in reference to the march taking place in London this weekend and the boycott of surgical interviews last week (see our report here).

Does any of this matter? Yes it does- because we as taxpayers have to foot the bill, and the NHS costs £~84 billion/year. A conservative estimate for the cost of training 8000 unemployed docs (although my sources suggest that the true figure would be 14,000 docs) would be £2 billion, or enough to pay for 2 Millenium Domes.

So I may have swapped the orange suit for the grey suit, but the same attitude prevails! Lets hope it does some good.

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