Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The junior doctors strike has been called off. What shall we do instead?

The Problem
As a doctor I am fully and passionately behind the junior doctors in their dispute with the indisputably awful Jeremy Hunt, who is trying to impose a contract on them that penalises doctors who work part time.

Hunt's contract will have a negative impact on those working less than full time, a majority of whom are women, and also on junior doctors working the most weekends, typically in specialities where there is already a shortage of doctors.

Jeremy Hunt argues that a new contract is needed to deliver seven-day services, but the department of health’s own documents show that the NHS does not have a plan as to how it will staff or fund further seven-day services. [Source: BMA]

Hunt and the Tories claim that they are trying to produce a 7-day NHS as per their election manifesto, which is OK;but  without providing any new resources, which is not OK. 

This is all happening at a time when the NHS is suffering a loss of more than £10 billion every year, a reduction in income of about 8% every year :

Thanks to @cpeedell 

So there is a big unresolved dispute.

The junior doctors were prepared to strike, but they have mercifully decided not to carry it out. 

Calling off the strike was wise, not least because a strike is exactly what Hunt wants. He does not agree with the principle of the  NHS, and he probably hoped that a strike would both make the service worse (by lengthening the waiting times), and by weakening the public's trust in the NHS.

It is regrettable that the commentariat has not reacted more positively to the turning away from strike action. A nod of appreciation would have been a decent reaction, a reward for a good decision. But journalism doesn't want ethical behaviour, it wants something it can scream blue murder about.

The question now is what the doctors should do instead? 
Or, better, what should we do instead? We, the users of the NHS? Because this is not just an issue for the juniors, it is an issue for the NHS as a service, as a whole system. Disgruntled and miserable doctors do not practice good medicine. They tend to move to countries where their skills are more wanted and appreciated, adding to the chronic shortages that are beginning to affect the service, notably in dermatology and A&E.

We need to help the doctors. Here is something that we can do:

The BMA and all people of good will should call for a regular weekly demonstration outside all Conservative Party headquarters or offices, calling for a better contract, new resources for the 7-day NHS idea, and restoration of the budget losses that are happening. Time and place of the demonstrations are to be chosen on a basis of getting the best turnout and making maximal inconvenience to the Tories. A few weeks of demonstrations will see pressure passing up through the Tory Party to make Hunt negotiate, or even to force his resignation.

Let's do it.

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