Socialist Worker

Angry junior doctors take protest to the streets

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2043

Junior doctors and other health workers demonstrated last Saturday (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Junior doctors and other health workers demonstrated last Saturday (Pic: Guy Smallman)

The latest outburst of anger over New Labour’s attacks on the health service saw 12,000 junior doctors take to the streets of London last weekend.

The angry and lively march saw doctors protesting, many wearing white coats and stethoscopes.

Rebecca from St Albans said, “Junior doctors keep everything ticking over – assessing patients in casualty, resuscitation, doing the blood tests and heart scans before operations.

“If this many doctors are angry, the government should sit up and take notice as it means there is something wrong.

“We want people to know what the government has been doing to the health service, and let them know their lives will be in danger because of the changes the government is making to our training.”

Some 30,000 junior doctors have applied for 22,000 jobs under a new system, the Modernising Medical Careers system, which is supposed to speed up the time it takes to become a consultant.

Junior doctors say the computerised application system – the Medical Training Application Service – keeps crashing and when it does work it ignores their skills and experience.

Ben from Manchester said, “Ultimately, if doctors’ training is cut short, if the wrong checks are in place and if doctors start looking to finish their training abroad, patients will suffer.

“I don’t want to move abroad, so I am now sending out my CV to employers such as banks – it seems a waste.”

Clarissa, who works in Leicester, didn’t get any interviews for orthopaedic positions in the first round of applications. Seven other doctors in her department are in the same position.

She told Socialist Worker, “I have studied for seven years to do this job and I don’t want to just give all this up.

“In August, there just won’t be enough doctors in hospitals.

“It is completely crazy of Tony Blair and Patricia Hewitt to do this.”

The marchers were insistent that their fight is part of the wider fight against New Labour’s attacks on the health service.

A number of protesters carried Socialist Worker’s “Sack Blair Not Health Workers” placards.

Anne, a consultant psychiatrist, said, “Over the past month we have had to stop work several times for doctors to talk about how upset they are.

“I am concerned at how this is affecting them personally and how this must affect their capacity to listen to patients and their families.

“This is not overindulged and overpaid doctors bleating about our own concerns.

“We are sending a message that, in contrast to the government, there are still people who care about patients.”

While the protest was joined by a small number of supporters from Keep our NHS Public there was no trade union presence at all.

And it says a lot about the depth of anger against Labour’s attacks on the health service that the Tory leader David Cameron received a fairly warm welcome when he spoke at the rally.

It also shows that unless the trade unions take a lead in the fight to save the NHS other people who have no genuine interest in safeguarding the future of the health service will move to the fore.

Under pressure, the government has announced a review to reconsider doctors whose applications have been turned down.

It also claims there are now an additional 5,000 positions available.

Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Article information

Sat 24 Mar 2007, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 2043
Share this article


Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.