Saturday, September 03, 2016

What is the alternative to the #JuniorDoctorsStrike?

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.

Also the government has said that a new contract is needed to deliver more seven-day services when 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 without providing any new resources . 

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

Thanks to @cpeedell 
So there is a big unresolved dispute, and the junior doctors have voted to strike.

Last time they did this, the public were with them, but this time it will be different. The profession is no longer united, and the BBC and right wing papers will start a chorus of criticism, which will reach a crescendo if a patient dies.

Moreover, a strike is exactly what Hunt wants. He does not agree with the principle of the  NHS, and he probably hopes that a strike will both make the service worse (by lengthening the waiting times), and by weakening the public's trust in the NHS.

But what else can the junior doctors do? 

Call off the strike and cave in to Hunt's unreasonable stupidity?

No. There is an alternative. 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 (see above). 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.

It is a big ask. The juniors will have to trust that the people will respond; but I think they will. To call off the strike would be big news, which will give an opportunity to announce the demonstrations. There are a number of networks that will be able to spread the word and organise the demos.

Let's do it.

PS Also, Junior doctors could simply not do any admin tasks, including signing certificates. We did an embargo on certificates back in the 70's, and it worked. I'm told it worked in Switzerland too.

5th Sept update: Great News! The BMA has called off the first strike, to give the NHS more time to prepare. This gives us more time to prepare too. Here's the BMA statement:

(Click on it to make it bigger)

No comments: