20 Nov 2015 at 11:30
The Paris massacre coupled with the numbing inadequacy of Jeremy Corbyn has overshadowed another disaster engulfing another Jeremy. The junior doctors threat of striking over pay. If this was as a result of one of those omnishambled Treasury wheezes to cut public expenditure, my sympathy would be with them. But it isn’t. If the Health Secretary was a rabid sociopath with dangerous Grayling tendencies chanting some failed Thatcherite dogma, my heart would go out to them. But the Health Secretary is Jeremy Hunt. He is not a headline chaser and most of the public have never heard of him as he is mild of manner and as showy as a classics don. Yet he is probably the safest pair of hands in government. He diffused the ticking time bomb of the Lansley fiasco. He talks about patients rather than outcomes. He is reasonable, moderate and fair.
Those of us who have had dealings with the BMA appreciate that they are a ruthless bunch of money grabbing bastards who will say anything and do anything to get their way. They make Len McClusky look like a well coiffed poodle.
Hunt has been a model of reasonableness in talks. His door is still open. Yet Junior doctors leaders will have none of it. They accuse colleagues who want to negotiate and don’t want to strike scabs. And even the Royal colleges are trying to calm them down.
The first lie that is being peddled is that the new contract will lose them money. In fact nobody will receive a pay cut. There will be an increase of basic pay by 11% and they will be paid more for working unsocial hours.
The second lie is that the new contract will threaten the safety of patients, ‘tired doctors make mistakes’. That is why the new contract requires junior doctors to work no more than 48 hours a week with a maximum of 72. Under the present contract the maximum is 91 hours.
I went to great lengths to get to the bottom of this so heaven knows what the average punter thinks. The government really has to up the PR on this.
What Hunt is trying to achieve is the manifesto commitment of a 7 day NHS. Yes, I know that a lot of doctors do this already, but not everyone. And to make it work structures have to remodelled. Most people are rather shocked to find out that if they are admitted to hospital at the weekend they are more likely to be carried out in a box than if they went in on a weekday.
I am sure that most doctors care desperately about their patients and probably have not had time to independently research what is really on offer to them. I hope that they have the common sense and decency to blow a very loud raspberry to their union leaders. If not they will be causing needless suffering to those they have dedicated their lives to caring for.
This is the wrong battle. It’s time to negotiate not strike