Saturday, 13 February 2016
The Junior Doctors Strike - what next?
In a weeks time the Junior Doctor's Committee of The British Medical Association meets to decide what their next action will be following the health minister's announcement that he will impose the new contract on Junior Doctors.
Already, Hunt's 'powerful' action looks a bit pathetic. It turns out that while he can make hospitals adopt his new contract he can't do that with 'foundation trusts' because they were given financial independence.
Come the new intake in August it's quite possible that the big, rich hospitals will be able to recruit an elite of the new recruits under the old terms while all the other hospitals scrabble around for the rest.
It's obvious to me that there isn't going to be any rush abroad by junior doctors - you need a specialism to be in demand.
So there is a risk this could just peter out and everybody just gives up. That would be the worst possible outcome for patients.
My hope is that the actions are extended - the worst result is a collapse in morale, an increase in cynicism.
Last year I was in Wexham Park hospital; this has been a failing hospital and it was taken over by Frimley Heath after the Care Quality Commission had condemned treatment there.
I was there for a week screaming in pain for hours on end with a broken spine. The doctors were at a loss as to what to do and in the end I was very lucky to get transferred to Charing Cross where the pain was controlled almost immediately and I was back home in 48 hours.
After I'd had my scan I was given a message by a junior doctor on the ward who told me that there was nothing they could do and I'd be going home without treatment.
He was honest enough to admit that he "Didn't know anything about spines" and that no one from orthopaedics was going to talk to me about it .
At that point I went on strike and refused to co-operate until someone came down from orthopaedics to explain my scan.
When I finally spoke to a junior doctor from orthopaedics I told him exactly what I thought about what had happened and he just said "there's nothing I can do about it, I'll be in a different hospital in six months time anyway".
The Junior Doctors have shown that they won't be pushed around. They now know how much solidarity there is from the public and from their fellow health professionals too. These were the most idealistic and most committed doctors.
One thing I do know is that the doctor I met at Wexham wouldn't have been on strike; there are plenty who have given up, who don't care.
That's what's so dangerous about what's happening to the NHS.
So my hope is that the dispute continues as a national challenge to the health secretary's proposed changes and that it draws in workers from throughout the health service from the nurses to the ancilliary workers.
Above all this is also a challenge to privatisation and cuts to the services that patients need.
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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