Yep, the headlines have hit the newspapers and the rest of the wires, but hoards of our so-called ‘junior doctors’ in our hospitals across the Country have come out on strike today from 8 am (they will though still be on duty to provide emergency cover throughout the day).
Many thousands of elective operations have already had to be cancelled for today in advance (as well as countless consultations), and the hospital Consultant leaders are left without any supporting troops. A couple of weeks afterwards, there will be a similar strike – to be followed by a ‘complete’ walkout another couple of weeks after that, if matters are not resolved.
Don’t misunderstand the situation, the use of the word ‘junior is somewhat misleading as these are anything but youthful trainees, aren’t they? No, they form the backbone of the Health Service and indeed many of them are highly experienced men and women doctors with many years of hospital doctoring under their belt – the term junior simply means that they are not Consultants (and Consultants are the ones top of the medical pile and the only ones deemed to be fully trained and experienced).
This is the first industrial action with doctors going on strike for some forty years, when then hospital doctors (including Consultant) withdrew non-emergency services, worked to rule, and halted goodwill activities. That was because the Labour government of the day intended to introduce new contracts banning private practice moonlighting. It was abandoned when the government backed down. Later on, junior doctors also took action over their proposed new contracts and again the government had to retreat.
So what has happened this time then? Well, again it is all about a new contract the Government wants to introduce to commit hospitals’ junior doctors to a seven day working schedule. When agreement on this floundered, arrogant Tory Health supremo Jeremy Hunt said he was simply going to ‘impose’ it anyway, despite no agreement. Wow?
Hunt is clearly an idiot. His approach was like a red rag to a bull, wasn’t it? Unwillingness to negotiate seriously and then followed by imposition? Who does he think he is dealing with here – a small gaggle of unrepresentative, uneducated, powerless, dispensable, unprepared, nobodies, led by a single moron [like the miners, who were (illegally?) trounced by Thatcher in the 1980s]? Well, in fact he was facing a highly dedicated bunch (if un-militant but their action supported by 98% of them by ballot) of widely respected professionals, far intellectually superior to himself, whose prime interest was their patients and their fellow workers, who as a group are relied-on by the public and much more popular than him in the Country (even in strike action where they have the backing of fellow NHS workers), to boot.
When the doctors first organised to go on strike last December, out-of-touch Hunt was certainly surprised (he thought that their professional caring was so much that they would capitulate), so he suddenly abandoned his refusal to use the services of conciliators Acas to negotiate with the BMA the doctors’ representatives. The doctors in a spirit of reconciliation then mistakenly thought he had had a change of heart and at the twelfth hour called-off their three strikes and suspended action. Negotiations have again gone nowhere in the past month, so understandably the doctors are now going ahead with strikes, despite a disgraceful torrent of misinformation and spin about their position, rolled out by Hunt and his Government’s spokesmen, eh? The doctors were not going to get conned into cancelling this time round, despite the pleas of the PM, eh?
As everyone knows, Hunt has got it wrong time and time again in this dispute, with even employing unsavoury tactics and misleading publicised statistics & information, plus false accusations like that the doctors were a Conservative hating gang of lefties trying to bring down his Government, no less? Like it was simply a money grabbing pay dispute scheme and not about patient safety or staff cover. Already, often there are insufficient doctors on the wards due to gaps in the rota cover (putting an unimaginable strain on the ones who are around). All that bad mouthing was hardly likely to gain the doctors’ trust when 98% of them had voted to strike, was it?
Do not be under any illusions, the doctors will come out on top in the end, but it will have been the NHS and patient treatment that will have suffered badly – all at enormous and avoidable cost to us all [just to satisfy the whims of an idealistic Conservative fool (who’s family probably uses private medical care anyway?)], who is trying to implement a wild Tory manifesto pledge, totally unfunded and uncosted, for full seven-day working in hospitals.
It was a massive surprise to many that Hunt was ever promoted into this senior role by PM David Cameron considering the cock-up he made on his previous ministerial position as Culture Secretary. In that fiasco he had brought ridicule on the Government by his incompetence in both controlling his underlings and his department’s indulgence towards News International & its head Rupert Murdoch
The NHS is in the crap already and has been for years, because of ongoing government underfunding – hence the English NHS Trusts are massively in the red as a consequence (to the tune of some nine hundred and fifty million pounds), aren’t they? Despite trying to have a ‘totally free health service’, the UK has one of the lowest shares of GDP public expenditure on health in Europe, and indeed the lowest overall GDP spend at 8.5% apart from Ireland, and that puts us behind Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, Germany, France, Denmark, Belgium, Austria, Greece, Portugal, Spain, Norway, Italy, Iceland, and Finland (with a number of them coming in at around 11%). How the heck in that situation can we expect to suddenly expand the service safely without substantial extra funding from Government, eh?
[Many will conclude that the NHS is in its death throes, and this dispute is the coup d’état – are they right?]