TUC Women's Conference: HCSA backs drive for NHS work-life balance

Below is the full text of today's speech by HCSA delegate and Council member Dr Lottie Elliott, speaking at the TUC Women's Conference 2018 in London in support of Composite 3 "Achieving Work-Life Balance in the NHS", moved by the Royal College of Midwives and the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy:

Chair, conference. My name is Lottie Elliott, representing the Hospital Consultants & Specialists Association – the HCSA.

I am an A&E doctor based in the Mersey region. As a doctor on the front line, I am exposed to the evidence of how the NHS is sadly crumbling around us on a daily basis - patients queueing in the corridors, 12-hour waits to be seen, a chronic shortage of beds, poorly people being left at home as the ambulance crews are too busy to go and get them – they are all outside our front door.

I am sick of apologising for something that is not my fault and abysmal conditions that the government has caused.

I work an understaffed rota on a contract which has just been imposed on us against our will.

I work long and intense shifts. When I get home I am just too tired physically and emotionally to do anything but eat and sleep.

I am confident our patients deserve to be treated better.

I love my job when all said and done, but I do not feel that I can go on until I am in my late 60s unless I have better access to a good work-life balance.

I am not on my own with feeling the stress. In 2017, the HCSA found that a third of doctors reported “unreasonable levels of work stress most or all of the time,” and that workplace stress was increasing.

This is not helped by the move towards a “seven-day” working NHS which neglects to see doctors as human beings.

I know of one doctor who was in tears as she was being forced to work weekends. The only quality time she had with her son. Isn’t it a right to have a family life?

One of my close friends has left medicine altogether as she could not manage her training and two young children. Getting a flexible childminder was a constant worry. Finishing in time was a constant challenge, and pressures from work would impact on her sleep and wellbeing.

I feel so sad that a caring, intelligent and talented doctor has had to give it all up because she felt she had no other options and the opportunity for a good work-life balance just does not exist in the NHS.

For her, there was little flexible about flexible working. She is not the only one – we are approaching a 50-50 gender split between men and women doctors, because a majority of new doctors are female.

Yet the specialist register, which represents Consultants, is still predominantly male.

There exists a gender imbalance and I am confident one reason for this is poor access to flexible working coupled with the role of women as carers for their families.

I am 30, but I would like to have children. But I fear I will fall behind my peers, be penalised for taking time out, and be used to plug rota gaps.

My wish is that I am no longer seen as just a number or name on a rota, but respected, valued and viewed as an actual human being. Please support this motion.