Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Road to Damascus experience

While listening to "Today" on the road to work I had my own Damascus experience this morning.
A judge was being interviewed about the imposition of the Ministry of Justice on the unsuspecting legal profession - that other dark force of conservatism. Apparently, true to form for Nulabour, the judges only found out about it from the Sunday papers.
The judge was worried that the Ministry of Justice would seek to influence judges’ actions. The good judge stated " We are not Civil Servants. We are not here to carry out Government Policy".
That was it. In a sudden flash of light I saw why we, as doctors, are having such difficulties with this Government. Are we civil servants? Are we employed to carry out government policies? Well, the government does pay our wages but it pays the judges too so that is not the criteria. I think most doctors of my generation thought we were autonomous and our responsibility was to our patients, our profession and, if we are self employed, to our business and staff. At some stage in the last 25 years or so this belief has been eroded and many modern doctors (including almost all those in influential positions, in the Colleges, Deaneries, BMA and Hospital Trust Management) are happy to carry out government policy and, indeed, enable the government to pursue its policies regardless of how mistaken -civil servants in fact. Doctors like me were never asked if they were happy with this and, belatedly, we are now saying that we are not.
Unfortunately, I don't think the general public understand our relationship with government. Although doctors are still, on the whole, trusted over clinical matters they cannot understand why, as employees paid for out of their taxes, we are so political and cynical of government diktats.
In short, politicians and the general public think we are civil servants but doctors think they should be like judges and be free to act without government interference. What do you think Dr Crippen and Sam Everington? - unlike myself you both have the advantage of a legal training.

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