Socialist Worker

After BMA suspends strike, keep up the fight for the NHS

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2487

On the picket line at St Thomas’ in London last week

On the picket line at St Thomas’ in London last week (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Junior doctors’ leaders have called off a strike that was set to begin on Tuesday of next week.

The doctors’ British Medical Association (BMA) had planned a strike across England in the second of three walkouts.

But the strike was called off for more talks with NHS employers and the Department of Health.

Megan, a junior doctor in Manchester, told Socialist Worker, “If there’s been progress on getting a fair and safe contract that’s a good thing.

“But we’ll have to wait and see what changes have been made.

“The first strike will have had an impact—Tory health secretary Jeremy Hunt is coming under more pressure.”

But it is a mistake to call the strike off without any clear concessions from bosses.

Junior doctors need a clear victory for themselves, for the NHS and for other health workers. That means Hunt must withdraw all his attacks.

Megan said that she doesn’t have much hope in Hunt.

She said, “This dispute has been going on since 2013, Hunt has threatened to impose the contracts and he’s attacking student nurses.

“He’s not been very open or willingly talked to junior doctors so far.”

Some junior doctors have called a protest in London on Saturday 6 February to keep up the momentum.

Junior doctors are fighting Hunt’s plans to impose new contracts that would rip apart terms and conditions and put patients at risk.

Hunt’s plans would remove financial penalties on NHS trusts for making junior doctors work a dangerous number of hours.

Hunt claims the new contracts are essential to “seven day working” in the NHS.

But Megan said, “We already have a seven day NHS—no one is turned away on the weekend.

“But to move to doing ‘elective’ surgery on weekends we’d need higher levels of staffing and that’s not just doctors.

“If you’re doing surgery you need nurses, porters and others to work together.”

Smash

The Tories’ real agenda is to smash workers’ terms and conditions and union organisation. They want to soften the NHS up for privatisation.

Megan said, “If the NHS is run down it will be far easier to say it’s not working and privatise it.”

A walkout earlier this month became a focus for resistance to Tory attacks on the NHS and austerity in general.

Solidarity from trade unionists and campaigners boosted junior doctors as picket lines swelled from theinitial six pickets.

Jeremy Hunt tried to claim the strike put patients’ lives at risk. But it’s the Tories who are risking people’s lives.

The Tories are spooked because they’re facing a growing revolt in the NHS just as it plunges further into meltdown. The NHS missed key targets this month.

Ambulance services failed to respond to 75 percent of the most serious 999 calls in eight minutes.

Accident and emergency (A&E) units only saw 91.3 percent of patients within four hours.

And it’s been two years since the six-week target for diagnostic tests was met.

Poverty pay and rocketing workloads are pushing workers out of the NHS fuelling a staffing crisis. In London alone 10,000 nursing posts are unfilled.

The decimation of social care means that it’s more difficult to discharge patients.

But there are also signs of a growing revolt.

Health care students are fighting plans to axe their bursaries. They have called for a solidarity walkout during the third strike.

Jenny, a student occupational therapist, said, “It’s to show solidarity. This is not just about their contracts or our bursaries—it’s about fighting the Tories’ onslaught on the NHS.”

Unison and the other health unions should immediately ballot their members. A united fight can push back the Tories’ attacks on the NHS and strike a real blow against austerity.


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

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