As many will have read, for the first time since the creation of the NHS in 1948, Junior Doctors up and down the UK are participating in an all-out strike, taking part for 9 hours yesterday and again today. I hadn’t planned to write about this as most of what I have to say has been written and spoken about eloquently elsewhere, but I have not been able to attend any demos or solidarity marches for quite a while due to anxiety, so the least I can do is write in support. I am fully behind the doctors, who are taking the unprecedented action of withdrawing emergency care in addition to withdrawing their services from their routine and elective procedures, as they have on four previous strike days. This does not mean patients are left without any source of treatment, as the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, and some papers would have the population believe. The withdrawal of care for two days by Junior Doctors is being supported by the nurses, non-training doctors, and consultants who are stepping in to work extra hours to enable the strike by Junior Doctors to take place.
I am not going to go into a depthy discussion of the intricacies of the issues the doctors are striking against, as this has been described, but below are some links to various pieces on the topic. For an excellent explanation of the situation, please read Dr Ravi Jayaram’s overview, posted to facebook here.
In summary, the dispute is about new contracts the government are trying to enforce. The government argue they are trying to create a 7-day NHS, but do not make clear what is meant by this. We already have a 7 day NHS; do not think that if you are ill or need emergency treatment at the weekend, you are unable to get it. The propaganda from the government is leading some people to believe they cannot receive treatment at weekends, which is untrue.
Currently, routine and elective procedures are not carried out at weekends, and this is the thing our Health Secretary appears to want changed, yet is not willing to invest more support or money into the system to pay more doctors to enable this to happen – instead he is trying to impose re-written contracts that are bad for all and worse for women, carers, and those who work part time (more of whom are women than men). This is explicitly written into the new contract, which makes them legally dubious as they are inherently discriminatory. Dr Salwa Malik reads directly from the discriminatory contract in this clip below:
For a perspective from a current NHS patient Kiah Hann gave this most excellent speech at the rally to protect the NHS yesterday:
For more positions on the dispute over patient safety and fairness, you may be interested in this excellent article by comedian Frankie Boyle; this impassioned and forthright post by writer, artist, and NHS advocate Touretteshero; this worthy perspective, from eminent Neurosurgeon Henry Marsh, who was initially against the doctor’s strikes, but is now in support; and, if you are more interested in the thoughts of doctors during this time, here you can find a selection of blogs by Doctors. Additionally, here are overviews of the strike days by the Guardian and the Mirror; and, for some balance, here are some words by Jeremy Hunt (the Health Secretary)… albeit via the ever creative and wonderful (and accurate) Cassetteboy:
When I began this post, in addition to overviewing the situation, I had planned to talk about two main aspects of the contract with which I (and the Junior Doctors) have contention: firstly, its discrimination, and secondly, the safety implications of demanding doctors work when they are exhausted. As it is, I have included more on the overview of the situation and the arguments by those supporting the doctors, and only touched on the discrimination and tiredness issues. I shall leave this blog post here but will follow up soon when I write those posts (I will link to them here).
My last words on the issue remain: