Junior doctors have stopped an attempt to end their fight against Tory health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s imposition of a dangerous new contract.
Many feared that the British Medical Association’s (BMA) Council would pull their planned programme of industrial action. They plan three 5-day walkouts in October, November and December.
Chris James, a junior doctor in south London, told Socialist Worker, “The BMA had a wobble, but it came to the decision that we’ve got to stand firm. I think this decision will give junior doctors lease of resolve.”
The Tories and right wing press are already pumping out propaganda about “greedy doctors” putting patients’ lives at risk. It was this immense pressure that saw the BMA call off a 5-day strike planned for this week.
But rank-and-file junior doctors put pressure on the BMA Council to stand firm. In an online survey, set up by a rep at east London’s Homerton University Hospital, some 78 percent said they were against calling off the action.
Of the 840 junior doctors surveyed, some 77 percent also said that it would make them consider leaving or less likely to join the BMA.
Chris added, “No one wanted to go on strike, but you reach a point where they’re just not listening and we have to take industrial action.”
Hunt claims the new contract in necessary to bring in “seven day working” in order to improve patient safety. In reality the NHS already provides 24/7 emergency care and junior doctors work long hours, including nights and weekends.
Solidarity is crucial to boosting junior doctors’ confidence
Hunt’s proposals would stretch resources already inadequate for five days across seven. Chris said, “We’re falling apart already and there is so much in this contract that’s dangerous for patient safety.
He added, “We see day to day the affects of staff shortages, rota gaps, stress and the impact that has on patients.
“I spent six months on A&E and it was horrific, with six to seven hour waits”.
The new contract will make Saturday and Sunday ordinary working days and will reduce extra night shift pay from 50 percent to 37 percent. It also replaces financial penalties on hospital bosses who overwork junior doctors with a weaker “guardian role”.
Solidarity is crucial to boosting junior doctors’ confidence.
In south London junior doctors and their supporters plan a public meeting, with speakers from NUT teachers and Aslef train drivers’ union among others. There are plans for demonstrations during the walkout in both east and south London.
A win for junior doctors could deal a severe blow against austerity.
The battle lines to defend the NHS have been drawn—now we have to make sure that the junior doctors win.