EMMA LEWELL-BUCK: Don’t blame junior doctors, blame Jeremy Hunt

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The last time doctors went on strike was in 1975, but yesterday junior doctors in England were given no option but to do so again.

In 2012 the Government decided that there was a need for a new contract for junior doctors but negotiations with the British Medical Association broke down late last year after the Government refused to agree the necessary safeguards needed to protect the doctors and NHS patients.

The deal offered by the Government would see junior doctors working dangerously long hours and subsequently compromising patient safety.  

It also meant that cuts to their bonuses would be made for working unsociable hours and increased weekend working.

Our doctors already work weekends and associated unsociable hours with many clocking up 90 hour weeks. Their worry is that they simply cannot work any more hours than they already do. However, Jeremy Hunt continues to try to force more weekend working but without a promise to find the funds for more doctors.

The deal also sees changes to their salary. They have been offered an 11% pay rise but this, as always with this Government, is not what it seems as this does not come close to offsetting what they will lose in cuts to their pay for working unsociable hours, pay for weekends and nightshifts.

Junior doctors have to work these hours as that is the nature of the NHS which in reality is already a seven day service.

None of the striking junior doctors have complained about their long working or unsociable hours but the issue is the impact these changes will have on patient safety and the future of the NHS.

Overall these changes will lead to less people entering the profession and those who are in the profession ending up being exhausted.

The NHS cannot do without the doctor’s skills and professionalism.

This was not a decision taken lightly and is symptomatic of the Government’s overall approach to the NHS.

They refuse to listen to the people who work in it day and night and impose upon them edicts from Westminster.

Any patient who has had their operation cancelled or appointment postponed this week should be clear – don’t blame the junior doctors, blame Jeremy Hunt.