Today, junior doctors are on strike across England, thanks to Jeremy Hunt’s spectacular mismanagement and alienation of vital medical professionals. Everyone wants to see a better NHS, but it won’t be delivered by attacking the pay and working conditions of junior doctors.
So it was a pleasure this morning to join doctors on the picket line at my local hospital in Barnet, and hear from some of those who will be hit by Hunt’s planned changes.
One doctor who I spoke to this morning – Matteo De Martino – summed up this mess of Hunt’s own creation very clearly:
“The government and Jeremy Hunt’s stance towards the junior doctor contract is tantamount to gambling with patients’ lives for the sake of politics. They are gambling with patients’ health in the short term and they are gambling with the long term future of patient safety in this country.”
“They have rejected an alternative and affordable contract model put forward to them by the BMA which was cost neutral to the government, fulfilled their needs and still recognised weekends and evenings as sociable hours. This was a deal which was safe for patients and fair for doctors.”
“Your NHS is already 7 days a week, if you come to any A&E or out of hours GP at any time of any day we will be there for you. The government wants to take this away. They want to spread 5 days’ worth of doctors over 7 days and in doing so endanger the British public.”
UNISON stands behind the junior doctors as they stand up for their rights at work and for patient safety, but unfortunately these attacks will come as no surprise to student nurses. They are already on the receiving end of one of George Osborne’s most foolish cuts – the removal of the student nursing bursary.
There is a national shortage of nurses. Landing future generations with debts of over £50,000 as a way of balancing the budget is misguided at best, and is likely to mean that only those from affluent backgrounds will ever be able to afford to join the profession.
That’s why student nurses will join junior doctors on their picket lines at lunchtime today. They will and stand side by side with them against a government that is cutting them both adrift.
In doing so, ministers are not just damaging our NHS but also putting patients at risk.