Anyone who has spent time in hospital will understand the junior doctors are the bedrock of NHS hospitals, they work tirelessly day in day out. From your sickbed on the ward you watch them scampering from patient to patient and back again. At the end of their shift when they should be at home, they are sitting in front of the computer screen typing up the notes of the day or passing on details to the incoming shift. They really are a credit to themselves and their profession. Without them the whole NHS system would come crashing down.
One cannot but wonder if this is what the Tory government wants? Why else would Jeremy Hunt refuse to negotiate with the BMA in good faith. After the latest round of talks failed to resolve the dispute, Jeremy Hunt, threatened to impose a new contract on the junior doctors. If that is not showing a red rag to a bull, I don't know what is.
We witnessed this type of provocative strategy throughout the privatisations which have taken place over the last three decades. British Rail is a good example, first the Tory government of John Major ran it down by underfunding it. Then they acted in what can only be described as a provocative manner towards the workforce. This inevitably enraged the workers and led to strikes. Leaving the public with little faith in BR. Which then allowed the government free to privatise it without a public outcry.
Junior doctors are set to go on strike for three days, starting on Tuesday, in protest at the Tory Government's failure to address their concerns about the need for robust contractual safeguards on safe working, and proper recognition for those working unsocial hours. On the 12th they will only provide emergency cover for 24 hours from 8am. They will stage the same withdrawal of labour for 48 hours from 8am on Tuesday 26 January, and then stage one all-out strike between 8am and 5pm on Wednesday 10 February.
One can only hope Cameron and Hunt come to their senses before then, and offer the junior doctors a contract which takes account of fears over excessive working hours and offers the public the safeguards the junior doctors demand.
If not we the general public need to show our support for both the junior doctors and the NHS they serve so diligently. If we are able we should go along to the picket line at our local hospital on Tuesday and express our support, or if we are passing give them a toot. If ever there was an example of their fight is ours this is it.
Below is a letter first published in the Guardian in which Adrian Whittaker, whose son is a junior doctor, explains why his son will be on strike.
My son is a junior doctor. He spent five years at university and over £70,000 to qualify. Fee increases mean that in future years new doctors will probably spend over £100,000 to obtain their degree. His basic pay is about £28,000 a year. He pays for his own insurance, fees and very expensive exams. He will probably spend his career living in expensive cities. He regularly works weekends and nights, and spends much of his “free” time adjusting his sleep patterns. He almost always works between one and three hours extra daily because of understaffing. He witnesses death and misery almost every week; unlike most jobs, if he makes a mistake someone might die. His social life is almost nonexistent due to exhaustion and antisocial hours.
For this his current average basic pay is about £12 per hour. “Overtime” payments have to be fought for and do not compensate for the additional hours worked. He cannot work for another employer – there is only one in the UK. Jeremy Hunt wants junior doctors to work more nights and weekends. Overtime will only be paid when hours exceed 87 hours a week – 39 more than the maximum allowed under the European working time directive.
In reality most junior doctors are neither well paid, well treated nor well appreciated by their employer. Their recent overwhelming vote in favour of a strike is largely because Mr Hunt apparently believes them to be the root cause of many of the problems in the NHS. His solution – to work them even harder and for even less pay – makes a clear statement of how little the government values their dedication. Why would they not strike (Doctors set to walk out next week as talks fail, 5 January)?