The Junior Doctors’ Strike Is A Tawdry Pay Dispute, Not A Principled Defence Of The NHS

NHS Junior Doctors Contract Strike

This strike is about money, not patient safety or the future of the NHS

James Forsyth speaks sense on the naivety and arrogance behind the ongoing junior doctors’ strike:

This walk out, the first all-out strike since the NHS’s creation, isn’t over some issue of high principle. It’s about money. The main sticking point in their negotiations with the government is that Saturday shouldn’t be treated as a normal working day.

The BMA’s suggestion at the weekend that it was prepared to call off the walk out if the government didn’t impose the new contract, but instead pilot it for a while, suggests that even the doctors themselves fear they’ll lose public sympathy by going ahead with this strike.

Yes. The fact that the final sticking point in negotiations is around money reveals all of the previous lofty, high-minded concerns about public safety and “tired doctors making mistakes” to be the cynical campaign rhetoric that it is.

Forsyth hammers home the point on pay:

Under the government’s offer, those junior doctors who are on duty one Saturday in four will receive a premium pay rate of 30 per cent. This means they are, on average, getting paid more for working on Saturdays than nurses, midwives and paramedics. The proposed deal is also more generous than what firefighters and police officers get for doing their job on a Saturday. This is hardly grounds for a walkout that will inevitably put lives at risk.

Junior doctors are right that they are paid less than doctors in some other countries. But this is, in large part, because the state has heavily subsidised their education. By the time a doctor has finished their foundation training, the state has already spent a quarter of a million pounds on them.

Until doctors are prepared to pick up more of this tab themselves, they shouldn’t complain that some of those working in other health systems are paid more than them. Indeed, it would be sensible of the state to actually require medical students to commit to working in the NHS for a certain number of years before funding their training—something that it doesn’t currently do. Junior doctors should also remember that if they stay in medicine and become consultants, they will find themselves in the top two percent of earners in this country.

This blog is no fan of the current Conservative government and no great proponent of the latest NHS reforms. But for the sake of decency, this strike needs to be broken. And then we need to have a long, hard national conversation about why an advanced democracy like Britain is facing a national strike of any kind in the year 2016.

Hint: if we did not still have a monolithic nationalised health service – the fifth largest employer on the planet serving the 22nd largest country by population – we could never be in the ludicrous position of suffering a strike of all the junior doctors in the land. Doctors would not all share the same employer, patients would not all rely on the same medical service and we would all be spared this drama.

Something to mull over as the accusations and counter-accusations fly.


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One thought on “The Junior Doctors’ Strike Is A Tawdry Pay Dispute, Not A Principled Defence Of The NHS

  1. Momtazia April 27, 2016 / 6:44 AM

    I am not the least surprised that we are having a strike in 2016. In fact, I wish more people had the guts to do it but that guts has been squeezed out of most people who are too cowed by political correctness and the struggle to survive and the fear that because we are so over-populated, they will so easily lose their jobs. The majority of the population now live in fear of one thing or another and people are being abused left right and centre because of it.

    I found it interesting to note the reports that most A & E departments were exceptionally quiet yesterday! I did wonder whether this would happen and it just goes to show that the public abuse the NHS. If it’s “available” in their perception, they’ll be there too.

    I also find all the media hype about putting patients in danger to be really annoying. Good God! Everyone had the best, most highly trained doctors at their disposal yesterday! This is not good enough?

    I find it strange that people are falling for the government line as well. “It’s all about money!” – What about the fact that there is a 30 billion hole in the NHS budget, precisely because the government and many Tory MP’s are either Directors or owners or large shareholders in all the private quangos and commission that have been set up as private businesses to administer NHS – constantly fighting and competing amongst themselves whilst drawing huge salaries. Only 10 billion has so far gone to filling that hole and there are no more doctors, no more nurses, no more paramedics than there were before the government manifesto pledge which has suddenly become of utmost importance to fulfil.

    Quite rightly with the same amount of staff now stretched over 7 days instead of 5, it is going to be come unworkable without finance from the government to produce more doctors etc.

    The people bashing the doctors need to remember that one day, if they get really sick, it will be a junior doctor that eases their pain and fear and prescribes the right treatment for their condition. The politicians in Westminster couldn’t care less – you are just a National Insurance number who pays tax and many of whom are just cattle fodder for illegal wars that make millions for both them and the corporate world.

    If I was asked to choose between whose words I would listen to, it would be a no brainer. The whole government is corrupt – the whole system of government is corrupt. CEO’s and ex Ministers are corrupt. I do not believe doctors are corrupt.


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