Doctor’s Dilemma

Many workers have weird and wonderful ideas about doctors. In some a childlike faith in the doctor’s healing powers is matched only by the belief that he belongs to a class immeasurably above their own. And many even of those who pour scorn upon the “quack,” as they choose to call him, still hold firm to the delusion that he belongs to the ranks of the wealthy.


The truth is, nevertheless, that the great majority of doctors belong to the working-class. Like bricklayers, clerks, lorry drivers, and the rest, they have to get a job to get a living. They come out from their medical schools, like sausages from the machine, and then begins for most of them the long and weary search for employment. It does not matter in the least that most of their eventual jobs are now in the hands of the State; nor that their masters choose to call them “appointments”; nor that they work for a salary and not for wages. Call it a job, or an appointment, the important thing for a doctor, as for every worker, is to find one.


The trouble for the doctors is that whilst in these days of full employment bricklayers, clerks, and lorry drivers, are finding jobs easy to get, they are complaining about how hard it is to get one.


“Every year,” says Dean, of Postgraduate Medical Studies, in the Medical School Gazette, of Manchester University, “several hundred more men and women become doctors than there are jobs for; if the medical schools continue to take in their present numbers of students, there may easily be 5,000 to 6,000 surplus doctors by 1959.”


And he goes on to say:—


   “The numbers on the Medical Register have increased since 1933 from just below 60,000 to above 80,000—an alarming prospect.”


In the higher ranges, the problem is no better and is probably worse. “Recently.” says the Gazette, “there were more than 60 applicants for an appointment as a surgeon to a regional hospital.” At least 40 of these men were capable of doing the job and doing it well, and the Dean asks the question:—


   “What prospect is there for these men, since there is little likelihood of more consultant posts being created in the near future?”


The question gives its own answer—there is no prospect. Like the rest of the workers, they will have to take their chance, living as best they can on what they have been lucky enough to get.


One thing only we would ask. Spare us any further homilies about what superior people they are. Let them realise, in other words, that they are workers trying to get by under Capitalism, like the rest of us;


Stan Hampson