Like many people, while I support the right to strike, I’m not usually too keen on them actually taking place. A typical example would be when it comes to suspending service on the London Underground, whereby drivers paid in the region of £50,000 a year feel like their job is becoming too taxing and so feel inclined to inconvenience the general public.
Junior doctors get paid less than half of this, and they have just striked for the first time in 40 years (barring last month). This alone should tell you that something must be going horribly wrong, but when you also factor in how invaluable and highly-skilled a profession this is, it’s hard to overestimate how serious this is. Lives are at stake.
So, why are they striking? Are they just being lazy? In short, no. These strikes are in response to Jeremy Hunt’s (Health Secretary) new contract which he has now unilaterally imposed upon all junior doctors despite 90% of them going as far as to say they would consider resigning should the new contract come in place. That is a concerning statistic to say the least.
What is Jeremy Hunt’s contract? Is it reasonable? Far from it. There will be an increase in the “standard hours” doctors are expected to work, which will go up from 60 hours to a staggering 87 hours a week before getting paid for overtime. To perhaps mitigate the toll of this, Hunt is also offering an 11% increase of a junior doctors basic salary (up to £25,500 from £22,636). However many doctors who work currently work anti-social hours will receive a pay cut as much of their current salary is supplemented by these premiums which would be scrapped under his contract.
Jeeves Wijesuriya of the BMA explains why the strike is taking place below:
By pushing through this deal, Jeremy Hunt is alienating the hardest working doctors and risking the lives of more patients. How can it be right to not class evenings and weekends as anti-social hours? By normalising such ridiculous working hours, it would only be fair to assume doctors would become more fatigued and thus more prone to error. No amount of money can cover that up. The BMA has already expressed its willingness to work with the Government to deliver a “truly seven day NHS” and so this kneejerk reaction from Hunt is not only undemocratic, but simply inconsiderate. As we speak, the BMA and the Government are debating whether or not working on a Saturday warrants extra pay. The last time I checked, Saturday wasn’t a weekday.
These are people who accrue £70,000 in student debt studying to get where they are now. For the past few years they have silently endured and accepted an under inflation pay cut without having felt the need to strike. This is not about money. Jeremy Hunt’s reckless decisions seriously compromises the future of the NHS and makes a vital profession look unattractive to enter. It’s for these reasons that I think we need to support our junior doctors, and hope that they can eventually come to some agreement with the Government so that this fiasco can be ended once and for all.
Agree, disagree? Drop a comment below!