It would appear that the cause of the Junior Doctors has been defeated by the government. The ostensibly reasonable and mild-mannered Minister of Health, Jeremy Hunt, now continuously uses the term “militant” to describe the strikers. The Union complied with all strike rules and regulations. There was a 98% vote in favour of strike action. Junior doctors made sure patients were never put at risk.
During negotiations with the minister junior doctors cancelled the second of three scheduled strike action days to enable talks to continue with less disruption to the health service. When negotiations again broke down the third day of the planned strike action went ahead. The government has responded by shaking its fist at the junior doctors, aiming to force the new contract upon them against their will. One might more aptly describe the minister for health as ‘militant’ in his intransigence.
The doctors feel they have been insulted by the minister’s derogatory and dismissive attitude. This government has done everything possible to prevent workers from legitimately raising their grievances with their employers. It would appear that the government feels that workers have to take what they are given and put up with it without question.
If we wish for a better level of care what we need is more permanent staff rather than agency workers and for consultants and diagnostic services to be available on the weekends. All this has little to do with junior doctors. The mismanagement of health care services in trusts has raised costs and reduced care in some areas in recent years. The breakdown of the link between hospital and community care services has led to expensive bed-blocking.
There is much that could be achieved with good management of resources but the government’s ideological stance against a well-funded NHS has run roughshod over these possibilities in favour of preparing the service for ever greater privatisation. The NHS has been the bargain of the century. Paying for health through taxes has led to very cost effective services available to all, free at the point of use. Is there anything that more aptly describes core British values than this? We should as a nation be very proud of our NHS.
There can no longer be any doubt about the government’s radical, right-wing agenda to sell off public assets and to privatise the provision of public services. The inherent conflict of interest should be very apparent too. This is at the heart of the government’s programme of reform. Make no mistake this change to the contracts of junior doctors has nothing whatsoever to do with a ‘seven days a week’ health service. It is designed to pave the way towards greater privatisation in the health service.