Junior doctors are on strike. The last thing they want to do is to cause disruption to patient care but they feel this is now their only option. The NHS is in their DNA. When the present service is practically on its knees, it makes no sense to stretch it further….writes Dr Kailash Chand, Vice-Chair, British Medical Association
Almost all junior doctors in the NHS, in non-emergency roles, including GP trainees, are on strike for 24 hours.
The public and politicians must not doubt that junior doctors have a deep commitment to the NHS and their patients. The NHS is in their DNA. The last thing they want to do is to cause disruption to patient care but they feel this is now their only option.
Before the last election, Prime Minister David Cameron promised ‘A truly seven day NHS’ in his election manifesto. However, it had one major problem: he didn’t have any money to fund this nor indeed has he defined what he meant by it. The idea that the prime minister can conjure up an excellent week-round service by forcing already stretched junior doctors to work longer for less is a delusion. When the present service is practically on its knees, it makes no sense to stretch it further.
It is well accepted that Jeremy Hunt has distorted statistics about weekend deaths to try and frighten the public into supporting his objectives. And he is still refusing to acknowledge that he has scared patients and the public, and angered NHS staff by misrepresenting statistics. Junior doctors already work seven days a week, what doesn’t happen at the weekend is elected surgeries, outpatient clinics and a lot of the subsidiary services. If you wish to run the NHS so that those services are available at the weekend then you need to employ additional staff, not make the current staff work longer.
If Mr Hunt wants to resolve the dispute, he should be working with the BMA and the junior doctors to achieve a common goal, rather than labeling the BMA ‘irresponsible’.