At the beginning of the year, our so-called ‘junior doctors’ in our hospitals across the Country came out on a set of unprecedented strikes, and because their dispute with the Government has still not been resolved in the past eight months, they are coming out again with increased intensity, aren’t they?
Make no mistake about it, it is these highly competent dedicated doctors who are in the right, and it is primarily the mindless Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt who has unnecessarily provoked this dreadful crisis in the English National Health Service.
The problem though starts at the heart of the Conservative Party and its ongoing failure when in government to support and properly fund the NHS – that may well be down to the elite of this Country using private health care to bypass the service or indeed to regularly jump the queue in it, don’t you think?
The admired worldwide NHS [the only ‘totally free universal care health service’ anywhere] has been rapidly travelling on a disastrous course to the bottom of a ravine, and without emergency action its demise is unavoidable, it seems? Not only are practically ALL the English NHS Trusts massively in the red as a consequence of substantial underfunding [to the tune of some nine hundred and fifty million pounds at the last count and showing an aggregate deficit of two or three billion pounds (despite fiddled figures)- the largest in its history], so A&E departments are being shut, maternity care truncated, and even further hospital beds closed. Furthermore, nearly three-quarters of Trusts in deficit were acute hospitals, but the Government seem to be in denial and completely oblivious to the problem, so are not at all addressing it, are they?
Quite a few days ago the brand new ‘unelected’ Prime Minister, Teresa May, in backing the dreadful Hunt, justified his incompetence by quoting that we have more money going into the Health Service and more doctors now than ever before. So what? That fact is meaningless bunkum, but she thinks that the gullible public will buy it (just as she and her colleagues though they could pull the wool over everyone’s eyes with their lies and manipulated statistics before the EU Referendum, eh?).
The current Government simply continues to ignore the blunt truth that the UK has a lower share of GDP expenditure on Health care spending than the likes of Norway, Greece, Portugal, New Zealand, Austria, Canada, Belgium, Japan, Denmark, France, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Netherlands, and of course is massively behind the United States.
Notwithstanding that, and with the service failing, the Government is planning to peg spending in ‘real terms’ over the next 5 years at under £120billion, when 5 years ago it was already at £115billion and since then our population alone has grown to 65 million and will grow by another five percent by the end of this Parliament, won’t it? Oh yes, they will tell you that the cash actually increases year on year, but so do prices, hence in ‘real terms’ the NHS is to be stuck with major underfunding, an overwhelming and ever increasing debt – and moreover with substantially higher equipment costs, treatment costs, staffing costs (the NHS in England employs over a million full-time staff which for the past decade has increased year on year), and new ultra expensive drugs (the NHS always gets well ripped off by the international drug companies, doesn’t it?).
There has also been a massive increase in patient demand, and the pressure on the major parts of the NHS has been so great that fractures are regularly appearing – like ninety percent of A&E departments now missing government waiting-time targets (hardly surprising when visits are up to a record 2million a month, partly because people can’t get GP appointments, eh?), many-many hospitals are missing key waiting time targets for things like cancer and routine operations, or the Ambulance service failing to meet 999 call response times for the most life-threatening call (in the south for nine consecutive months).
The NHS cannot any longer provide the right quality of care to its patients, so is under the greatest pressure it has faced since its inception 70 years ago, and that is the opinion of the experts close to the problem, isn’t it? [So much for the con claims by Tory Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher (2002) & David Cameron (2006) that “The NHS is safe in our hands”, eh?]
This is the financial and performance climate in which Hunt embarked on a fool’s errand to expand the NHS service to what he calls “7 day working”. Currently the hospitals are ‘fully’ functional between Monday to Friday ‘daytime’, but not so overnight nor at weekends. So now, our hospitals are staffed and run for 7 days a week already, but Hunt decreed that on a Saturday and Sunday there needed to be more doctors on duty – by that he meant Junior doctors (those are the bulk of the profession who are below Consultant level). Hunt relied on well dubious statistics to claim that people we dying at weekends because they weren’t getting adequate treatment – on further analysis that was shown to be a falsehood, but he wouldn’t back down on that, would he? NO.
How the heck in the current situation can we expect to suddenly expand the service safely without substantial extra funding from Government, eh?
Well, the hospital doctors pointed out that the plan couldn’t work out because it wasn’t funded, at weekends the hospitals would remain with most parts on standby, other essential staff wouldn’t also be working in support, and moreover it wouldn’t save lives, but to the contrary it would put patients at greater risk, not least because the doctors were already overworked, overtired, knackered, and their rotas were already short staffed with nobody to fill in the gaps with no doctor cover. Obviously they rejected the plan to change their contracts of employment to force them into working more weekend long shifts, but when talks failed, Hunt announced to great anger that despite no agreement, HE would IMPOSE the new contracts on all the doctors anyway and that is what led to strike action – are we surprised? Would any other employer dare to do that kind of thing? Well Hunt did, and on the surface he can get away with it because the NHS is under political control and not subject to normal commercial and business constraints, is it? He banked on the fact that doctors are a caring lot and are in the job to help ill people and save lives, aren’t they? He had banked on the prospect that they would knuckle down and get on with the job, but he was wrong and they by an overwhelmingly majority voted to go on strike, didn’t they?
After some initial strike action, Hunt tinkered with the proposed contract of employment, but would not budge on the central non-contractual issues of safety and staffing that genuinely and reasonably concerned the doctors concerning patient safety. The doctors by a substantive majority again said no to the revised contract of employment, so the British Medical Association (BMA) who represent the doctors, have had to further escalate strike action to a full five days, each month until the end of the year.
[STRIKES: 12-16 September (cancelled); 5-11 October (not the weekend); 14-18 November; 5-9 December].
Now, the doctors’ Achilles heel is indeed that they are the most caring of all professions and in their hearts they want to work to save people and not to go on strike, so they are not militant left winger Trotskyites trying to bring down the Government of the day – as Hunt has claimed at times. They are not money grabbing, highly unionised Tube workers frequently prepared to cause misery to and hold to ransom millions of London commuters to get their undeserved overpaid rewards. No, they are distressed respected men and women who are signed up to the ethics of the Hippocratic oath to ‘give the utmost respect for human life’, for who threatening to strike sticks in their craw – they don’t want to take industrial action, but have no room to maneuver to do anything else, do they? [The last time hospital doctors stood up to the government was some forty years ago and again it was about contract changes, but affecting Consultants that time].
The Government under May, but with Hunt calling the shots, are using the media and playing the moral card to accuse doctors of ‘playing politics’, and abandoning and abusing their calling by embarking on strikes. Without doubt, most doctors freely admit to hate taking this course of action, so questioning their basic integrity, appealing to their humanity, and saying their strikes are ethically unjustifiable, is potentially effective.
The BMA representing the doctors are also being told that their action on escalating strike action is grossly disproportionate – what would be proportionate is though not specified, is it? While undoubtedly the BMA did their utmost to codger up a deal with the Government, and despite their best efforts, six out of ten of all hospital junior doctors then rejected it, and that committed the BMA to continuing industrial action – and it could hardly stay at the previous level that had proved ineffective, could it? The Government are demanding that a fresh vote is taken on this escalation of strike action, in the hope of splitting the unity of the BMA.
Without doubt the doctors’ ongoing action will cause massive disruptions, and costly problems to an already sick NHS, with many tens of thousands of elective (non-emergency) operations having to be cancelled, hundreds of thousands of outpatients not seen, and despite what doctors might say, some people will die who might have lived (likely not directly), but that is not the doctors’ fault, it is solely the fault of Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt – but that cretin will not accept such responsibility, nor accept what his actions and inactions have brought about, will he?
The authorities want the doctors not only to give-in, but to capitulate in ignominy, don’t they? They want to successfully engineer the withdrawal of public support (that has been there solidly so far) through their ongoing campaign consisting of an onslaught of lies, misleading statistics, and personal maligning, so perhaps they will still succeed now – who knows, eh?
Indeed the doctors pulled the plug on the five-day strike planned for this week (starting TODAY), after the hospital administrators claimed that they didn’t have time to plan for it (really?) – not much militancy and lack of concern for patients there then from the doctors, eh?
The diehard EU Remainers, who are still in denial over BREXIT, continually carp on about what they say was the Leavers false claim that substantial funds were available from withdrawal from the UK’s annual financial contribution to it, that could be used for the NHS. Well, those funds WILL be available after BREXIT is achieved and the bulk of it SHOULD go into the NHS as there is no better way to spend the windfall – and the sooner the better, don’t you think?
What needs to happen urgently now to deal with this national problem, is three simple things:-
- Hunt to withdraw the proposed new contract forthwith
- The BMA to cancel all planned industrial action and withdraw the threat of any further potential disruption
- The Government to set up an independent enquiry to collect evidence and investigate the whole viability of extending hospital functions at weekends
[Will it happen? No, not if Jeremy Hunt has a say in it, eh?]