This April Junior Doctors and the BMA are set to continue to escalate their resistance to Jeremy Hunt and the government’s plans to impose new contracts that have been universally panned as being both Not Safe and Not Fair.
These new contracts remove financial penalties for NHS trusts that place Junior Doctors on ‘fatiguing’ shift patterns (and are thus liable to enable unsafe working conditions – tired doctors make mistakes); and unfairly attack Junior Doctor’s pay be reclassifying an additional 50% of currently unsocial hours as part of the standard working week.
On top of this, the new contract seem geared to accelerate privatisation. Unsocial hours payments are often cited by private healthcare firms as a ‘barrier’ to their taking over of staff and contracts for some services, removing them will act as a catalyst for the outsourcing of both.
Furthermore, as Dr Lauren Gavaghan recently eloquently explained on LBC (in a video watched by more than 1,000,000 people), expanding work on the weekends isn’t about increasing emergency care (as junior doctors and all NHS staff – myself included – already provide that) but introducing elective non-urgent clinical work into weekends. This is the work that private companies love to take on as they cherry pick the most profitable services from our NHS to maximise their money making; and thus these contracts will help increase the amount of services liable for private healthcare profiteering.
For all these reasons and more we must support the Junior Doctors when they return to picket lines in coming weeks.
The next strike dates are from 8am on the 6th till 8 am on the 8th of April, and then again from 8am till 5pm on 26th and 27th of April.
This second strike will be all out – for the first ever time junior doctors will not provide emergency care (which will instead be covered by consultants).
The government is currently imploding over divisions on the impending EU referendum and the intensification of austerity measures in the recent budget. The escalation by the BMA will put the government under intense pressure (as well as shining a spotlight on the Tory’s gradual assault on our NHS), and in this context could well succeed in forcing another humiliating climbdown.
Tory’s know this, and it is no doubt for this reason that the Tory press has intensified its vilification of junior doctors and the supposedly ‘militant’ BMA. According to reports, junior doctors are being nakedly politically, are only interested in the money, are killing patients with their ‘irresponsible’ striking and should all be fired anyway (according to the Sun).
Despite the best efforts of the Torys (and much slander and misinformation particularly from Jeremy Hunt) and their allies in the media, the Junior Doctors remain overwhelmingly popular with the public. Both the Tories and their press are trying to drive a wedge between striking Junior Doctors and the public (and are going to try to use this latest escalation as a means to discredit them). Attacks on Junior Doctors and the BMA are only going to intensify as the month draws on.
To defend against these attacks, and support our Junior Doctors (striking can be a hard and dispiriting course of action at the best of time, let alone with the attacks in the press) we must stand shoulder to shoulder with them on the picket lines as they fight to not only protect themselves, but also patient and our entire health service. The government has suffered a series of setbacks and is looking increasingly weak. Now is the time to escalate our resistance, to link up our struggles, and to fight back against their agenda of cuts and privatisation.
Once again Bristol Greens will be taking to picket lines across the city to provide SolidariTea (and SolidariCoffee) and practical support. We call on all trade unionist and progressives in our city to do the same. If we all come together to support the Junior Doctors they can win. This would both protect vitally important staff (who are already over worked and under paid) and be a signal victory in the fight against NHS privatisation. It could also significantly contribute to the toppling of this government.