With junior doctor strikes looming it is important for us to emphasise that the world-class care delivered by the NHS is largely dependent on the goodwill of its staff. We already work exploitative rotas in understaffed units, working unpaid ‘overtime’ regularly. We never get paid for working outside our contracted hours (hence the word ‘overtime’ is misleading), something that we frequently do to protect our patients. Even the current status quo is unfair and would be an insurmountable threat to patient safety were it not for our good will, professionalism and exemplary work ethic. How many people reading this would be content to work ‘overtime’ unpaid on a weekly basis? We do this already.
“We Already Have A Seven-Day NHS”
The government is now proposing to worsen this already unfair status quo by extending our ‘sociable hours’ bracket, essentially making unpaid overtime mandatory and reducing our pay further. Is this the way to provide a ‘seven-day-NHS’? To stretch our already over-worked and under-paid workforce even thinner? A point of clarification: we already have a seven-day NHS for emergency care.
If you want a seven-day NHS for elective care then you more of every kind of medical and non-medical staff. This begs the question: why are junior doctors being targeted? Jeremy Hunt is suggesting that we use the same resources to convert a 5-day service to a 7-day service whilst being ‘cost neutral’. This is self-evidently not achievable even if the government’s exploitative reforms are implemented.
“Orwellian Word-Play: Preconditions Are Not ‘Negotiations'”
We didn’t ‘walk away’ from negotiations. We weren’t offered any. We were offered preconditions – a unilaterally decided contract that the government is trying to force upon us (and you, as the patient or relative). The fact that such a highly committed, proud and professional workforce is considering strike action is testament to the seriousness of this situation.
The government’s unilateral preconditions preceded our consideration of a strike. The government’s proposals make an already unfair situation less fair, and more importantly are highly unsafe, and will lead to dissolution of our wonderful NHS.
The strikes exist to protect ourselves, to protect our NHS, and to protect our patients.