Jeremy Hunt, who has almost become as disliked by the medical profession as Michael Gove is by the teaching, suggested on morning television, once again, that the general public need to start berating our junior doctors and their union for having the audacity to strike on Wednesday.
As you may have seen through mainstream media lately, the British Medical Association (BMA), has been in dispute with the government over the proposed new terms to the junior doctor’s contract. The government has produced a new contract as part of their bid to create the ‘7-day NHS’. Firstly, I’m not sure how they can claim to be creating a 7-day service as in my experience the NHS is already functioning 7 days per week. Both my partner and I have both been to ‘Out of Hours’ clinics over weekends and have been seen to on all occasions within a couple of hours.
Regardless, the major sticking point with the current proposed contract is the pay structure for Saturday hours. The BMA claims that junior doctors will receive less in their pay each month as they will not be paid premium rates over the weekend. Previously, as junior doctors have worked overtime during weekends anyway, they have always received these benefits.
The government has tried to get the general public on side by criticising the strike, claiming it will put lives at risk, bringing out statistics showing that death rates in hospitals at the weekend are both too high and avoidable (though, Mr Hunt has since somewhat retracted this claim), in the hope that it will swing opinion. However, in my belief the public needs to get behind these strikes and support their junior doctors. These are the future of the health service and it is integral that the profession remains desirable.
Taking teaching as an example of how public sector roles are becoming undesirable under this government, I can highlight the current crisis that minsters are looking to cover up. Even though the Department of Education has stated to have more teachers than ever, in January Ofsted claimed that isolated and coastal areas face a teacher shortage and late last year TeachVac identified the woeful levels of new teachers in some key subjects. More teachers than ever are leaving the profession within the first few years due to the conditions they now work under. Our children’s educations are being put under threat by this government, who are making the role undesirable to graduates who can work easier hours and earn more elsewhere. If we carry on down this road with the NHS, it will be the same story for our health service.
Junior doctors deserve to be listened to and they deserve a fair contract, which does not put them in a worse position financially. Whilst I doubt any doctors study medicine purely for monetary reasons as there are higher paying jobs available, that does not mean we should not reward the work they do for the community. Cuts to the NHS and privatisation are already hindering the service that provides care to all across Britain. Whilst it does of course have its problems (more so since our Conservative government came to power), the NHS is a brilliant service that saves the lives of our loved ones every year. It is time that we stood with our public servants and supported them and their calls for better conditions and funding. A future without these professionals does not look pretty and we will all lose out.
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