Tom Goodfellow

Let us not forget that we’re a powerful bunch

On Thursday 30th, with thousands of public sector workers on strike, the whole country was talking about pensions. Meanwhile feral school kids roamed the streets in gangs, while their teachers waved anti-government placards at various rallies round the country. Immigration officials abandoned their posts and queues at airports snaked back to the planes. Town halls and government departments ground to a halt, the dead remained unburied, a plague of locusts invaded the West Country and the Thames turned to blood.

Or, if you are a government spokesperson, a few people went on strike with minimal or no effect on society, other than hoards of angry Mums were forced to take a day off work to look after their kids and lust over Andy and Raph.

The politicians are giving endless interviews telling us that because we doctors are doing so well in keeping Joe Public alive (a good thing apparently), the pension pots are running dry and in years to come we will all be confined to the Work House or, even worse, end up like Greece. Like many of you I find many of the arguments tendentious to say the least! The NHS pension pot is doing so well it is actually a recent net contributor to the exchequer of about £2bn! I listened on the radio to Francis Maud MP squirm under relentless questioning, and it seems that the rhetoric has now morphed from pensions are “unaffordable” to “unfair”.

Public sector workers were awarded gold-plated pensions because in general we were paid less than the private sector. Now the pendulum has swung the other way, and it has all become “unfair”. It is likely that some re-balancing is necessary, and the various arguments are being well presented by many, including my own union the HCSA.

It therefore seems profoundly ironic in a Kafkaesque sort of way that I spent that day of all days aimlessly wandering the streets of my local town, clutching an umbrella, and wondering what to do with the rest of my life. Yes, on June 30th, as the world went on strike over pensions I became an OAP!

I often tell the story of my Great Great Aunt Isobel who was a Scottish spinster born in 1854. She ran a dressmaking business in Dumfries. In our family album there is a photograph of her, draped in fox furs, sitting regally in the back seat of an open car like Queen Victoria. I can just remember visiting her as a child. In her fifties she became unwell and her doctors advised her to retire for the sake of her heart (I know the feeling). She subsequently lived until she was 102, obviously the best medical advice she ever received. So, I have decided to follow her example and Wednesday was my last official working day; full-time at least.

I have already ordered a Zimmer frame from Amazon. I hope to collect my hearing-aid sometime next week, but I couldn’t hear what the nice lady from the clinic was saying to me on the phone. I have purchased a pair of pebble glasses to help me see, but I can’t remember where I have left them. I have also laid in a large supply of Werther’s Originals to suck noisily and annoy people whose names I can’t remember. Mind you with regard to Shakespeare’s seven ages, I think I still have at least two to go. I am not yet a slipper’d pantaloon and although I am sans a few teeth I am not sans everything.

Now I can already hear the siren voices intimating that I have simply grabbed the money and run, abandoning the rest of the profession before the pension brown stuff hits the fan. And to be honest you would be right, I admit it. But I am not sure what alternative I had, (“You’ve said it,” mutters the wife). However, I feel that I have done my part in fighting for the profession.

I was recently reminded by a colleague that in 1975 we took on the Government in the form of the then Secretary of State, Mrs Barbara Castle. She decided to abolish the overtime payments to junior doctors (known as Units of Medical Time, UMTs). We juniors rose up and instituted a work to rule of 40 hours a week. The whole NHS ground to a halt and she caved in after three weeks telling us that it had all been a ghastly mistake. Rumour has it we made her cry!

I hope that current matters do not result in such a confrontation, although it would be interesting to watch Andrew Lansley sobbing into his hankie. But remember we are a powerful bunch!

After a short break, I plan to return to work on a part-time basis. I couldn’t bear to give up completely; what would I have to blog about?

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2 Responses to “Let us not forget that we’re a powerful bunch”

  1. Paul McCoubrie says:

    First Bob, then you.


    *thrashes around on floor in infantile manner*

  2. tom goodfellow says:


    Quickly take one of your tablets – the blue one. You will feel better soon.

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