'Struggling to make ends meet': junior doctors reconsider careers amid strikes

  • WATCH: Sarah Saunders has spoken to a patient whose procedure was cancelled as a result of the strike action

Junior doctors across the South East have joined picket lines and said they are struggling to pay their bills and are considering changing their careers.

The strikes on Monday marked the start of the biggest walkout by doctors in the history of the NHS.

The strikes, by members of the British Medical Association (BMA), took place at several locations including Royal Berkshire in Reading, the John Radcliffe in Oxford, Southampton and Brighton.

The BMA said junior members could earn more per hour if they worked in a coffee shop, with pay having fallen in real terms by 26% since 2008/09. The union said a 35.3% pay rise is needed.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay said the BMA's demands are "completely unaffordable".

Among those on the picket line in Southampton was Core Psychiatry Trainee Katie Dichard-Head, with her young daughter Maggie.

She works in mental health, making life-impacting decisions about the treatment of children and young people.

She believes the term 'Junior' is misleading, given the level of training she has undergone and the level of responsibility she is expected to bear.

"I have actually been a doctor for eight years now," she says, "and I still have several years of training to go as a junior doctor.

"I work with people who are extremely distressed, extremely mentally unwell and make really tough decisions about whether to forcibly treat them in hospital, give them antipsychotic  medicines- it's a really tough job, and I carry a lot of weight on my shoulders.

"It seems laughable that that is somehow worse 26% less than it was 15 years ago.

  • WATCH: Katie Dichard-Head explains why doctors deserve the 35% pay increase

Katie accepts that the public see the headline of a 35% pay demand, and ask why doctors deserve that sort of increase, but she believes many people aren't aware of the reality of the situation.

"Actually, we're struggling to make ends meet every month, especially with nursery fees and the fees I have to pay in order to just be a doctor. We've got mandatory training and fees that we have to pay totalling thousands of pounds every year, that take away from our take home pay. 

"If I've got two kids in nursery and I'm struggling to make ends meet, why would I carry on doing such a hard job that takes me away from my children?"