While over 99% of the Junior Doctors have taken a stand in practice on the contract that the BMA was being offered by the NHS Employers, on the basis that it was neither safe for the patients nor fair for the doctors, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt dictated that the contract be imposed in England.
This is the neo-liberal way, government by dictate. Not a government embodying the popular will and translating that will into legislation, but a government imposing the will of the state, of the ruling elite, on the electorate.
Why would the Junior Doctors and the BMA be opposed to a 24/7 NHS as Jeremy Hunt claimed, and as he kept repeating in Parliament as a slur on the medical profession? Hunt uses targets, waiting times, statistics without context, without substance, without regard for the world as it exists. The BMA and the Junior Doctors, as well as those that have researched and investigated the world as it exists in the health service, point out the selflessness, the dedication of those working in the NHS. They point out the flaws in Jeremy Hunt’s arguments and sound-bites. They point out that the staffing levels crisis and the financial crisis in the hospital trusts, which the Health Secretary even refuses to acknowledge, are of the government’s own making. They point out that “over-spending” is a quite different situation from the hospital trusts’ not being financed by the government for the work they have to do. They point out that the contract which the government is now declaring it will impose will mean the end of contractual safeguards, the banding system, and the end of annual pay progression.
Why would Jeremy Hunt deny these facts of life? Would one not draw the conclusion, as many commentators have done, that the government is intent on managing the NHS for the benefit of the private sector? There have been many thin edge of the wedges over, shall we say, the past twenty years, in the sense of measures which have gone against the principle that health care is a right which must be guaranteed by government. One of the most infamous of recent years was Lansley’s Health and Social Care Act 2012, which – after the Conservatives had openly declared that there would be no further top-down reorganisation of the health service – “threw a grenade” into the NHS. The Act declared that the Secretary of State would no longer be responsible for providing a comprehensive health service in England, under the guise that this responsibility should not be government’s. What remains is the ability of the government to dictate, and hypocritically pose as a concerned observer. What these attempts to re-organise the NHS show is that they have all been steps in the direction of putting the NHS in the service of the private sector and the monopolies.
The Junior Doctors are refusing to accept the imposition of a contract. Legally, it is being advised that an imposition of contract terms such as these could itself be a breach of contract and could provide grounds for a legal challenge.
With this in mind, the BMA announced new dates for industrial action. These dates are:
8am on Wednesday 9 March to 8am on Friday 11 March
8am on Wednesday 6 April to 8am on Friday 8 April
8am on Tuesday 26 April to 8am on Thursday 28 April
These days of action will follow the emergency-only model used for the previous protests. The BMA is also set to launch a judicial review into the government’s decision to impose the new contract, claiming the government failed to follow due process.
The government is playing with the lives and health of the public in its fanatical pursuit of imposing its contract. It is despicably using the ploy of achieving a 24/7 NHS to impose a business model on the health service which eliminates the human factor. It is denying that TTIP would lead to the irreversible privatisation of the NHS against all evidence. To Jeremy Hunt and Co., patients are not patients but consumers.
The conclusion is that enough is enough. The whole direction that the NHS is being driven in is at fault. The resistance of the BMA and the junior doctors is one factor, and a very crucial one, in the resistance of health workers and professionals, as well as the public at large, to this direction. The struggle is putting a spoke in the wheel of the government’s juggernaut. And in doing so it is revealing in higher profile that now is the time for an NHS based on the right to health care.
WWIE calls on the whole working class and people to get behind the struggle of the junior doctors. The fact that the government does not accept that the working conditions of the junior doctors are the conditions for the health care of the public exposes how low the ruling elite has sunk in blocking the requirements for a modern health service. We call on the working class to inscribe on its banner that health care is a right. This is the way forward.
No to the Imposition of a Contract on the Junior Doctors!
No to the Privatisation of the Health Service!
Health Care Is a Right! For an NHS Based on Fulfilling this Right!