I’ll be supporting the junior doctors today as they escalate their industrial action and go on strike: After a long battle I don’t think that the government will negotiate in good faith unless they do.
Doctors at Swindon’s Great Western Hospital will be joining their colleagues across the country in coming out to protest. It’s been 40 years since the last time, it’s serious not just for junior doctors but for the future of the NHS too.
While Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and his supporters in the press would like you to think it’s all about the money, and have been quick with their smears (checkout the reaction on Twitter #smearthedocs), there are some important changes in the contracts that are potentially far more damaging.
Mr Hunt has been accused of gambling with patients’ lives as he attempts to push through radical reforms to doctors’ contracts. “Jeremy’s Punt” focusses on changes in working hours, patterns and conditions for junior doctors while weakening the monitoring system that protects the number of hours junior doctors can work.
Doctors fear that safeguards to prevent hospitals from forcing them to work dangerously long hours, which have been in place for over 15 years, face a drastic alteration that could put the public’s lives in danger.
Changes to the definition of ‘office hours’ weekday and weekend working, such that a doctor could work up to 2 o’clock in the morning and not be classified as being on a night shift (with the associated breaks and rest periods before being back on duty that would entail) should ring alarm bells. Junior doctors are right to be worried that the new contract will lead to increasingly unsafe working patterns without adequate rest and recovery.
While the most recent study revealed that fatigue could see a significant increase of medical error, the Department Of Health has confirmed that there has been no assessment of patient safety under the new contract, showing that Hunt’s actions are a gamble.
I don’t believe that the Health Secretary has negotiated in good faith. Instead he has embarked on a campaign of misinformation and brinkmanship to try and force the doctors to capitulate.
You can join the doctors in their protest, or just visit to show they have your support. They will be at the entrance to the Great Western Hospital in Swindon (or at another hospital near you) from 08:00 to 12:00.
I believe that in taking this action the junior doctors are standing up on behalf of all of us in defence of the NHS that we value so highly. I wish them luck, and give them my thanks, as should we all.