Junior doctors in the British Medical Association (BMA) were set to strike on Wednesday of this week against health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s plans for dangerous new contracts.
It comes as Tory cuts and privatisation are plunging the NHS deeper into crisis.
A report for the National Audit Office last week said the NHS already has a shortfall of 50,000 clinical staff. It warned that hospitals trying to save cash risked “understating their staff needs”.
More than 2,000 junior doctors marched in London last Saturday and 500 protested in Bristol the following day.
Junior doctor Craig said, “It’s almost like Jeremy Hunt has got a death wish for the NHS. There isn’t a single junior doctor who supports Hunt.”
The new contracts would slash unsocial hours payments and remove financial penalties on hospital bosses who make junior doctors work a dangerous number of hours. Louise, a GP trainee from London, said, “There would be no restrictions on unsafe hours.
“But tired doctors make mistakes and that’s no good for our patients.”
Hunt claims the new contract is necessary to bring in “seven day working” and improve patient care. But junior doctors already work long hours, including nights and weekends.
Junior doctor Zena explained, “If you’re not on call then you’ll be working from 9am until 5pm, but you always get there early and leave late.
“If you are on call you’re working around the clock for 56 hours from Saturday morning until Monday evening.”
Hunt wants to smash health workers’ pay, terms and conditions to soften the NHS up for privatisation.
Mohammed, a junior doctor from London, added, “This contract is about dismantling the National Health Service.
“The workforce is already stretched to the limit and to go any further would put patients’ lives at risk.”
Health students fighting to save their bursaries were also planning a one-hour solidarity walkout as part of a week of action that began on Monday of this week.
Danielle, a leading student nurse, said, “I’m joining the junior doctors because the NHS is facing devastating cuts.
“If we don’t unite now we could lose the NHS.”
The Tories are ramping up their attacks on the NHS. Department of Health bosses announced that it could impose the new contract as early as this week. But a united fight can stop them.
Andy, a junior doctor from London, said, “The strike is the key thing now. We’re worried that they might announce imposition, but we’ve got to keep protesting and striking.”
Roshana Median, one of the London demonstration organisers, told the rally, “We will not let them impose this contract.”
NHS crisis - fixing cuts with cuts?
Labour peer Lord Carter calls for another £5 billion in NHS cuts in a new report.
He claimed these could come through “efficiency savings”. In reality they would have a devastating effect on staff and services.
The report identifies problems but many are a result of cuts. For example, “bed blocking” patients often cannot be discharged because social care has been decimated.
Carter points to high agency staff bills and the fact that sick leave differs across trusts. But it’s poverty pay and rocketing workloads that are making health workers sick.
The Carter review is a recipe for plunging the NHS further into crisis.