Blogspot: Flying pigs and the junior doctors’ strike

Blogspot: By Dr Emil Shehadeh

The junior doctors and Jeremy Hunt are at war again. It is often said that the first casualty of war is the truth. Only if politicians were honest with themselves, the public and junior doctors, will this war be averted. But pigs might fly. Politics and honesty, for some reason, rarely make good companions. Lies told by NHS bosses:

1. Junior doctors are not thinking about patients: this untruth is designed to alienate doctors and reduce their "public support". Unlike politicians, however, doctors do not need votes and are simply motivated by a caring ethic. There are many better paying and less taxing careers junior doctors could pursue as an alternative to medicine. What the NHS bosses are proposing is to stretch a week-day service which is already at breaking point, in order to give the illusion of a seven day NHS. Junior doctors and the public are natural allies, and the government attempt to discredit junior doctors will fail. Notwithstanding, junior doctors do not need votes; they need more hours, more colleagues and more ancillary staff.

2. The government cares about patients: the truth is the government sucks up to voters. Care? Never. The government made an election pledge of a seven day NHS. They are hell bent on delivering it, without having worked out the cost because they do not intend to pay for it. The notion itself is based on false premises. But all they propose to do is shift services from weekdays to the weekend, without any ancillary services being offered. The government wants to tick a box to say that they have fulfilled their election pledge.

3. The government claims we have a world class NHS: the public are not that stupid. We invest 50% less in health than most of our European neighbours, even those with much smaller economies. This means an underinvestment of £40-60 billion/year. It is dishonest to promise a world class service when you only budget for a second or third class service.

4. A seven-day NHS is affordable: not on the current budget. The government is proposing to shift resources when they need to boost resources in line with the boast of a world-class NHS.

5. Junior doctors’ pay has been increased: the truth is that pay for regular hours has been increased somewhat, whilst their unsociable hourly pay has been brutally slashed, and their weekend work has been increased. This is a net loss to many who work weekends.

6. Junior doctors are not listening: It is a hallmark of the NHS that its managers excel in failing to return calls from doctors and nurses. Mr Hunt is cut from the same cloth. The NHS is the biggest bully in town. That is why Mr Hunt wants to impose a contract on junior doctors.

7. The NHS spends an awful lot of money training young doctors, who should reward the NHS with their low salaries: Most young doctors have had to pay £9000.00/ year to study medicine. Their German counterparts pay virtually nothing. Yet their salaries and working conditions are better than ours. Furthermore, what shall we say about lawyers, who also go to university, and chemists and physicists etc etc..

8. By going on a 5 day strike, junior doctors are jeopardising lives: I believe that a 5 days strike may jeopardise lives. The question is: whose fault is it? If doctors were to buckle under and accept the new contract, they would exhaust themselves and jeopardise lives for much longer than 5 days. The government is exploiting junior doctors’ impossible position: if they do they are damned, if they don’t they are damned. The government’s position smacks of deception and dirty politics. Besides, no harm came to any patients as a result of the last strikes. The junior doctors’ decision to postpone the strike affirms their sincerity with regards to patient safety. The same cannot be said of NHS bosses, who are risking patient safety in order to tick the box of a so-called 7-day NHS, which frankly the public does not see as priority.

9. The GMC has stepped in and stated that the strike may be illegal and may be unethical: If the government’s own assessment states that the NHS is underfunded, why has the GMC not accused the government of being unethical or acting illegally. NHS funding has diminished in real terms over the years and staff have had to work harder, at the risk of patient safety. A three-minute orthopaedic assessment is a shameful blotch on the NHS’s credibility. But that is what doctors and patients have to live with due to under-funding. The GMC should be apolitical and speak up when the government acts unethically and dishonestly.One sided criticism is inappropriate.

10. The government is training more doctors: The government cannot train more doctors because fewer young people want to be doctors. I also know that trainee posts are hard to fill, because many of those who qualify go on to do other things, outside medicine. Of those who qualify, an increasing proportion are going to work abroad. The conduct of the government throughout this dispute is the worst advertisement for a career in the NHS, and will exacerbate the shortage of doctors in the NHS

In brief, NHS bosses are painting a false picture in which they plan to offer a service, which requires more doctors, nurses and ancillary staff, but for which they are not willing to pay, because they spend £40-£60 billion less on the NHS than they should.

One cannot expect a badly treated labour force to accept worse working conditions than the existing bad conditions. The government’s position is an insult to doctors’ intelligence, to the public and an affront to basic laws of common sense and decency.

The government has lost credibility with doctors in general and I believe, if the junior doctors are successful at getting their point across to the public, the government will lose votes.

More significantly, the NHS will lose more well trained doctors, and will ensure that medicine is an unattractive career for aspiring young students, all because of a political repulsion towards honesty and openness.

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