Tomorrow marks the beginning of this week’s 48-hour walkout from junior doctors, which for the first time will include A&E units, in the dispute over new contracts. The British Medical Association has, additionally, not ruled out staging a permanent junior doctors strike, reports The Guardian.
Jeremy Hunt upped the ante with a new statement saying that these young doctors are putting patient lives at risk with their walkout beginning 8am on Tuesday. This was followed up by the BMA chairman, Mark Porter, calling the claim an attempt at ‘mudslinging’.
Suffice to say, things are starting to get heated. As the NHS has already cancelled 125,000 operations, now is as good of a time to reflect on the series of events that have pushed these hard-working young men and women so far up against the wall that a England-wide walk-out is their only option.
1. What sparked the strikes?
Back in 2015, David Cameron promised a “truly seven day NHS by 2020” a key element of which was to change the way doctors’ pay operated at the weekend in order to improve patient care. The plan was to make it cheaper for hospitals to hire doctors to work the weekend in order to lessen the higher death rates in hospitals on Saturdays and Sundays and the new proposed contract doesn’t make good on this promise.
2. So why are the junior doctors so unhappy?
The junior doctors strike can be put down to something as simple as feeling mistreated. When Jeremy Hunt told doctors to “get real” and work weekends they fired back saying that of course they work weekends and sometimes 90 hour weeks. What’s more “real” than that? They also feel slighted that they Hunt misused data to ‘prove’ that hospitals were “unsafe” at the weekends.
3. Will this promised new contract cause young doctors to lose out?
Ministers say that doctors will get three years’ pay protection and will be better off with this 13.5% average pay rise. However, the fear is that, in the long-run, there will be significantly less generous pay-rises for junior doctors now and any new doctors joining the profession.
4. How close is a resolution?
If we extract all the emotional turmoil these young docs are going through, there has been some progress made. The main sticking point concerns the pay on Saturdays wherein the government wants to pay junior doctors less on this day relative to the pay-bump.
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5. What’s the latest?