The campaign by junior doctors against the imposition of a new contract which would see them working 90 hour weeks, with pay cut and the safety of patients endangered, is gathering support amongst medical staff and members of the public.
Attacks on health workers have been free-flowing at Tory Party conference, with David Cameron using the occasion to visit hospitals and GPs surgeries in the area and reaffirm his committment to launching a ″seven-day NHS″. Ratcheting up the attacks on NHS workers, claiming they don′t already deliver a seven-day service, shows that the Tories are beginning to realise that doctors are serious about the industrial dispute and cannot be taken lightly.
The British Medical Association, whose Junior Doctors′ Committee agreed on 26 September to ballot its members, says its demands are reasonable, but firm — they say they will only return to negotiations if the Secretary of State agrees to preconditions in writing. Given that the ex-minister who was in charge of negotiations last year has said, that Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt ″ripped up an agreement in principle″ and completely re-worked the new contracts, the demand for preconditions is understandable.
The ex-minister, Dr Dan Poulter, claims in the Guardian that Jeremy Hunt has triggered ″understandable″ anger. He also accuses Jeremy Hunt of desperately seeking ways to save money to help tackle the expected £30bn hole in the NHS budget by 2020, pushing aside 53,000 junior doctors in the process.
The junior doctors’ campaign has organised more protests in the lead up to their ballot, following the one in central London on 28 September attended by thousands of doctors and supporters. A protest will be march from Richmond Terrace to Parliament Square on 17 October, and a further protest will be held on 24 October in Newcastle.
The enthusiasm and support for the junior doctors′ campaign has the potential to feed into a wider debate about the future of the NHS — campaigners are using the slogans ″Not fair, not safe″, and ″Let′s save the NHS″.
The campaign is about terms and conditions at work, it’s about not being exploited by your employer, it’s about the wider impact in the NHS and the Tories’ desire to weaken the NHS, paving the way to privatisation.