Socialist Worker

Junior doctors call for strikes

Tory Jeremy Hunt wants to rip up health workers’ contracts and privatise the NHS—but junior doctors are up for the fight, writes Tomáš Tengely-Evans

Issue No. 2516

Junior doctors on strike earlier this year

Junior doctors on strike earlier this year (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Junior doctors could return to the picket lines after the British Medical Association (BMA) decided yesterday, Thursday, to move towards further industrial action.

Junior doctors in England have been fighting since March against Tory health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s imposition of a dangerous new contract.

The British Medical Association’s (BMA) junior doctors committee called for a “rolling programme of escalated industrial action” last Thursday.

It has requested a special meeting of the BMA Council, not scheduled to meet until 14 September, to authorise its plan.

Ruhe, a junior doctor in south London, told Socialist Worker, “We’re tired and the dispute has been going on for a while. But I’ll be out on the picket lines with my colleagues—we’ll be fighting for the NHS.”

She added, “They have had plenty of opportunities to negotiate a contract that is safe and fair, but nothing seems to shift them.”

The committee’s decision follows a survey of junior doctors last month on what industrial action they are prepared to take. Junior doctors had rejected a proposed deal cobbled together by Hunt and the BMA, by 58 percent on a 69 percent turnout.

The BMA has yet to announce what form the action will take or any dates.  This is an important step forward by the BMA—and must be turned into action.

Junior doctors committee member Yannis Gourtsoyannis said, “This dispute will determine the lives of generations of patients and NHS workers.

“Activate your networks, get talking to your reps. This is so winnable—let's win it.”

With the NHS plunging further into crisis, every trade unionist must get behind the junior doctors.

Smash

Hunt wants to smash health workers pay and terms and conditions to soften the NHS up for privatisation.

The new contract makes Saturdays and Sundays ordinary working days and reduces night shift pay from 50 percent to 37 percent.

It replaces financial penalties on hospital bosses who overwork junior doctors with a weaker “guardian role”.

The Tories have boasted that the contract reduces the cost of weekend working by one third.

The right wing press is already on the attack, but junior doctors are clear that their fight is part of the fight to defend the NHS.

Ruhe said, “Pay is interrelated with what’s going on in the NHS.

“We have one of the lowest doctor to patient ratios in Europe and there’s a serious problem with recruitment.

“St George’s Medical School in south London is going through ‘clearing’ for the first time in its history.

“We should fund the NHS properly and expand, not reduce, the workforce.”

If the junior doctors lose he will come after other health workers unsocial hours pay and ratchet up other attacks.

St Helen’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) in Merseyside announced on Tuesday that it could stop all “non-vital” operations for four months. It is also pushing for a two-year suspension of IVF services to patients aged under 37.

The proposals are under public consultation until 5 October.

The CCG chair Geoffrey Appleton said it was necessary because the group was facing a £12.5 million black hole.

The NHS crisis is likely only to intensify as winter approaches and could see more hospital bosses follow St Helen’s.


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.