A junior doctors’ revolt is rocking the Tories’ plans to impose new contracts that rip up terms and conditions and put patient safety at risk.
More than 2,000 people marched through Bristol city centre last weekend ahead of a second London protest this Saturday.
Thousands joined demonstrations in London and Manchester earlier this month.
Tory health secretary Jeremy Hunt is desperately trying to stop junior doctors from taking industrial action. He knows it could spark more struggles among NHS workers.
The Tories and right wing press have tried to paint the protesting doctors as “greedy”. But they face pay cuts of up to 30 percent.
And the dispute is about more than pay.
Joe is a medical student in south London. He told Socialist Worker, “The Tories are taking a sledgehammer to pay and conditions and it is part of their plans for wholesale privatisation.”
The campaign’s slogan, Not Fair, Not Safe, highlights the impact on patient care.
Joe explained, “Many doctors are already moving out of the country or out of speciality areas such as GPs and accident and emergency (A&E).”
This has forced hospital bosses to rely on agency staff and locum doctors.
Joe said, “One of my friends was on A&E rotation—out of 12 posts, ten were locum doctors.”
But health care isn’t just about administering medicines and bandages.
“You have a long term commitment to patients,” said Joe. “Locums are not familiar with the hospital and the patients.
“This can be a real problem when hospitals can have different ways of testing and antibiotics policies.”
Making exhausted doctors work longer hours will increase the chance of mistakes being made.
The Tories talk of bringing in “seven day working”, but most services already run 24/7.
Their real aim is to smash pay to soften the NHS up for privatisation.
The Tories hoped junior doctors would be a soft target they could make an example of.
Instead doctors have given an example of how to fight.
Andy, a Unison union health worker in east London, told Socialist Worker, “We know the attack on junior doctors is a precursor for the rest of the NHS.
“The Tories are coming for the rest of us.
“Unison leader Dave Prentis said he’d lead a fight, but we’ve heard hardly anything. We need to join the junior doctors and strike.”
Rank and file doctors have written to Hunt saying his concessions are not enough.
Joe said, “The question is whether the BMA will swallow some concessions. It put up so little resistance over the Health and Social Care Act in 2012. But we’re determined—we want to strike.”
Thanks to Martin Upchurch