Junior doctors: The philosophical reality of the strike ballot result

Liverpool GP Dr Chris Mimnagh takes a philosophical look at the resounding vote by junior doctors in favour of industrial action - a mandate that could yet come into play early in 2016.

Philosophy - what's it all about? I've been looking into a bit of philosophy for a while now. Nothing too heavy, just the basics, kind of an idiot's guide. One concept among many that appeals to me is the idea that we create our own realities.

The classic example is Plato's cave, where people growing up in a cave believe shadows are reality and they fail to believe others when told that they are not seeing reality.

I thought about that when the juniors' ballot results came out. Those shadows are not reality, their interpretation is subjective, but the reality we create is the one we will defend.

Junior doctor revolt

Hence, to some, it's the end of professional medicine, while for others it's the mandate to lead a revolt against an unsafe imposition of working conditions, and for others it's the only logical choice.

Each will have their reality, self constructed, self policed, and self defended.

My point here is that whatever reality we create from the vote we should bear in mind that the ultimate reality, death, is never far away and whatever action we take we should try and avoid that reality happening to somebody in our care.

I'm totally in favour of the juniors becoming radicals - prepared to place long-term NHS interests over personal interests - it's what we need to transform our service into something fit for the future. Unless, of course, I'm just seeing shadows.

  • Dr Chris Mimnagh is a GP co-director of clinical strategy at the NHS partnership organisation Liverpool Health Partners

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