A JUNIOR doctor who is among those set to take part in a three-day strike later this month has considered asking his patients whether he is “worth £14 an hour”.

David Barron, 28, has spent a year and a half as a junior doctor at the Grange University Hospital in Cwmbran and Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport.

He is among those who will take part in the junior doctor walkout set to start at 7am on Monday, January 15, and conclude at 7am on Thursday, January 18. It comes after the British Medical Association rejected the Welsh Government’s offer of a five per cent pay rise, which they described as the "worst pay offer in the UK".

The strike is separate from the six-day walkout in England which began this week.

The Welsh Government says the offer is “at the limits” of their available finances and cannot be bettered without additional funds from Westminster.

'The other side of the coin'

Mr Barron says his job is “absolutely enjoyable” and one of the “most rewarding” roles he could imagine.

“The working hours are difficult and I knew that going into the job," he told the Argus. "You can end up working 70 hours in a week. I did expect that, but it’s still been really challenging.

“It’s probably one of the most rewarding jobs you can imagine, but there’s also the other side of the coin where patients get worse and sometimes die.

“Last summer, I was working a long weekend – nine to five Monday to Thursday and twelve-and-a-half hours Friday to Sunday. I had a patient who needed various things. We needed to do two or three things within the hour to keep them stable.

"I did all of those things and the patient got slightly worse. And then there were three more things that needed doing, and the patient got worse and worse. Even if you do everything, the patient does not always get better. I still remember that.”

South Wales Argus: I still remember that: Mr Barron says his job is rewarding but high-pressuredI still remember that: Mr Barron says his job is rewarding but high-pressured (Image: David Barron)

Mr Barron, who lives in Bristol, says the latter end of the week tends to be most difficult because, with fewer staff in the hospital, he feels like the “bare bones”.

“You forget to take care of yourself and realise you haven’t been looking after yourself for four or five days,” he said. “The pressure that we put on ourselves and get from colleagues is really difficult.

“When I started, my biggest fear was making a mistake. It’s drummed into you – that you shouldn’t make a mistake – but everyone makes mistakes. You just hope you don’t make a significant mistake.

“I don’t know a single person in this job who hasn’t had doubts about their career. I ask myself whether I’m good enough to do this.

"Everyone has sink or swim moments, and most people swim, but some leave the UK or go into another profession – and I suppose that’s sinking in a way. A lot of people I know are going to New Zealand or Australia, including a couple from the Royal Gwent. A big part of that decision is pay.

“It’s not just that it’s a high pressure job – it’s that pay has gone down. What’s the difference between what we were doing in 2008 and what we’re doing now?"

South Wales Argus: It's not just that it's a high pressure job - it's that pay has gone downIt's not just that it's a high pressure job - it's that pay has gone down (Image: David Barron)

Considering what he would tell affected patients, he said: “I would first of all assure them they will be safe. I don’t want them concerned about what’s happening. If someone has a new diagnosis of something serious, I think it would feel really hard for them.

“I might even ask: ‘Do you think I’m worth £14 an hour, or do you think I’m worth more?’. But above all, I’d reassure them they are safe. It’s important to show them the system will stay functional for the days that we are not there.”

'At the limits'

A spokesperson for the Welsh Government said: “It is disappointing that doctors have voted for industrial action but we understand their strength of feeling about the five per cent pay offer.

“While we wish to address their pay restoration ambitions, our offer is at the limits of the finances available to us and reflects the position reached with the other health unions for this year.

“Without additional funding from the UK Government, we are not in a position to currently offer any more. We will continue to press them to pass on the funding necessary for full and fair pay rises for public sector workers.

“We remain committed to working in social partnership with the British Medical Association and NHS Employers and we will jointly ensure that patient safety is protected during industrial action.”