Socialist Worker

Doctors' protest for NHS blocks Whitehall

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2473

Junior doctors take the road in front of Downing Street

Junior doctors take the road in front of Downing Street (Pic: Guy Smallman )

More than 3,000 junior doctors marched on Downing Street and blocked Whitehall in central London on Monday of this week. 

This came days after the British Medical Association (BMA) announced it would ballot junior doctors in England for industrial action. 

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt is trying to impose new contracts that would rip apart terms and conditions, and put patient safety at risk.

“People are furious,” junior doctor Joe told Socialist Worker. “This is making every­one in the NHS angry.” 

The protest assembled outside Westminster Central Hall near parliament, where NHS Employers had called a doctors’ meeting. 

But the meeting had been cancelled that afternoon after Hunt agreed to meet with the BMA junior doctors’ committee.

Protesters’ chants of “Save our NHS” and “No ifs, no buts—no junior doctor cuts” echoed outside Westminster.

Police told people that they couldn’t march without permission. But the swelling crowd poured across Parliament Square, took the road and marched on Downing Street. 

The Tories are pumping out propaganda about “greedy doctors”, but this is not just about pay. The campaign’s slogan is “Not Fair, Not Safe”.

The new contracts could allow NHS trusts to make doctors work a dangerous amount of unsocial hours. 

Harry told Socialist Worker, “We all work long hours because we know that’s what patients need. 

“But with more unsocial hours, people will be exhausted. We deal with people’s lives and can’t afford to make mistakes.” 


David said, “I’ve had a lot of friends seriously thinking about leaving medicine.”

Emma added, “It would really hit speciality areas such as A&Es and GPs, where there’s already a shortage.”

Joe came with his little boy. “People imagine a junior doctor is someone in their 20s with no dependents,” he said. “But I’m in a single income family with two kids.”

The new contract could slash pay by up to 40 percent.

It is part of the Tories’ drive for “seven day working”. 

But most services already run 24/7. 

The Tories just want to smash pay and terms and conditions to soften the NHS up for privatisation.

As Harry said, “If a service looks like it’s failing it’s easier to sell off.”

The doctors’ protest showed a glimpse of the anger that exists among NHS workers.

Unison union leader Dave Prentis said recently that there would be action over attacks on pay and unsocial hours. Unison and other health unions should ballot now. 

The BMA hasn’t decided what kind of industrial action to take. 

The Tories hope to smash the doctors and then take on unions after ramming through their Trade Union Bill. United strikes now could stop them. 

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