Save Our NHS: Junior Doctors Speak Out

17616Socialist Party, RMT, PCS, Unite, UNISON, NUT and Momentum members were all out supporting junior doctors as they took to strike action on February 10th earlier this year.

Ryan Aldred interviewed Kim, Daniel and Rebecca about the reasons why they were on strike:

RA: Why are junior doctors on strike?

K: Nothing has changed since the last strike action and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has vetoed an agreement between the British Medical Association (BMA) and NHS Employers.

RA: What are the effects of the proposed changes?

K: If the changes go through then the safeguards which prevent doctors from working dangerously long hours will be removed. “Lower hours” would be nice but this is going to be less likely without the safeguards in place. You certainly wouldn’t want to see me after a 30 hour shift (the maximum length of time a doctor could be expected to work before the safeguards were removed)! We don’t want to make mistakes and if we are working longer and longer hours mistakes will be more likely which will put patients at risk which is something we won’t risk.

D: It is likely that there will be more walkouts if the government refuses to listen.

R: I see an end of the NHS coming. In 13 years it’s never been this bad. The NHS has the monopoly so there’s nowhere else to go. I know 6 people who have already taken contracts in Australia or New Zealand.

RA: What is the pay for a newly qualified junior doctor?

For someone who has just qualified they will be on around £24,000 a year. However, we also have to fund a lot of our training ourselves with no external support. The General Medical Council (GMC) fees are £500 and I have to pay in order to progress. For example, I’ve got to pay for two lots of exams which cost £500 each this year alone.

RA: Will patient care suffer if these changes are brought in?

K: Definitely. The new rotas aren’t compatible with life let alone working life.

D: If safeguards are removed doctors will be exhausted and will be more likely to make mistakes. A demoralised workforce is an unproductive one. A standard working week is 48 hours. I have even had to do 39 hour weekends.

RA: What has public support been like?

K and D: Amazing.

K: One patient said “if you’re here tomorrow, I’ll be cross.” It’s such an important cause.

D: It was nice to know that I had the support of my patients, with one of my patients saying “We’re all behind you!”

RA: What do you hope to achieve with the strike?

K: We hope that this will convince the government to listen to the BMA. Safe contracts should be the real goal.

D: No more lies from Jeremy Hunt and no more false statistics. Actual negotiations without threat of imposing contracts.

Since this interview, Jeremy Hunt has imposed the new contract terms and has refused to negotiate with the BMA. In response the BMA has called for 3 lots of 48 hour strike action, determined to get the government to listen. The first 48 hour stoppage took place from Wednesday 9th March-Friday 11th March with doctors still receiving overwhelming public support.

The National Shop Stewards Network has been in contact with a number of junior doctors and many of our supporters have invited them to speak at their union meetings to help build solidarity. In consultation with them, we have drawn up a model motion that can be discussed and hopefully passed throughout the union movement.

It calls on the TUC and the unions to “urgently convene a special TUC general council with an invitation to the BMA and the other health unions.

This meeting should discuss organising an emergency Saturday national demonstration on the theme of ‘Defending the NHS, supporting the junior doctors’ and coordinating industrial action against Tory health service cuts and their effect on health workers, such as the attack on NHS bursaries.”

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For more reports on the junior doctors strike click the link below:




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