I wanted to be a doctor for as long as I can remember. I thought it would be the single most important thing in my life I could do; to be able to listen to someone’s story, pick out the clues from what they say and what their body tells me and then come up with a plan of the best way to help them. But more than this I wanted to do this in the NHS. The NHS which gives me the freedom to make decisions to help people not based on cost but based on need and which gives patients the freedom to be cared for in their darkest moments without fear that they can’t afford it.
The NHS is one of Britain’s greatest crowning glories in history, if not the greatest. Britain demonstrated to the world that it is possible for every person to be treated as equally valuable members of society in some of their most vulnerable and desperate moments, regardless of their status or wage. And that it could be done exceptionally well with world-leading care for over 50 years.
But the NHS as we know it has gone. In 2012 it was broken up into CCGs by the Health & Social Care Act which effectively fractured the NHS into funding pools. These pools encourage the market to enter and crowbar profits into healthcare where profits have no role. The Secretary of State for health NO LONGER has the responsibility of providing healthcare for the British population which I did not even realise until recently and I work in the NHS and I am therefore certain the public do not know. The Health & Social Care Act was kept from us by bounding it up in 100s of pages of corporate legal jargon so that none of us knew what was happening until it was too late. The NHS has been reduced to a logo which Richard Branson can and now does stamp all over his Virgin services which are currently and increasingly running large parts of the NHS, all introduced by stealth.
The importance of this cannot be overstated. This is not democracy if our Government can act on our behalves without even telling us. And this is why junior doctors should strike. To get our NHS back.
Many will say that there is no link between the restructuring of the junior doctors’ contracts to make us work more weekends with no extra staffing or resources. Many will say this is about improving services for patients across the week. Points that junior doctors have desperately being saying that we fully support but that there just IS NO MONEY ASSIGNED FOR THIS. NONE. This was demonstrated by Charles Massey, Director of External Affairs for the Department of Health, recently floundering when asked how much money had been put aside for 7 day staffing in the NHS. The answer is simple: there isn’t any. So they will just stretch us. I urge everyone to look at the wider context and implications of this contract. A contract that the entire profession has rejected as we on the frontline know in a way that no politician can tell us what this will mean. Let me ask you who you trust with the truth; 50,000 junior doctors who signed up to protect and care for patients for the rest of their lives or 2 politicians with deeply invested interests in the healthcare insurance private sector?
Let me phrase it in a simple way: If all junior doctors are expected to work infinitely more Saturdays with no extra staff or support, who will be looking after our patients for the rest of the week? Who is covering the thousands of unfilled gaps across the country that already exist that all of us have been made to fill to the detriment of patients? Who is it that suffers when on a night shift when there is no colleague to support you because the position is unfilled you now take on seeing 50 patients instead of 25? Not a single doctor has asked for a pay rise and there is no amount of money that could tempt to me risk patient care in the way that this contract will.
And this is the crux of it all; once the workforce is undermined and the staff demoralised and stretched and exhausted even more than they already are, then the REAL reforms march on in. Reforms that are already heavily underway and that this contract imposition is just one part of. When this Government has succeeded in bringing the workforce to its knees alongside reducing total spending on the NHS as is very clearly set out in Simon Stevens 5 year plan (to reduce spending from current 8% to 6% of GDP by 2020, already half that of amount paid in United States) then the NHS will be sold off fully as an “inefficient” service that has been purposefully crippled for corporate interests.
This is no longer in question, these are verifiable facts that the entire NHS workforce have been largely unaware of until now. Unaware because as Tony Benn once famously predicted “there would be a revolution in the streets if the NHS were to be privatised.” So they didn’t tell us. They just did it in the background and called it reform.
NHS solidarity is about standing up and challenging the system and calling them out on what they are doing. I will do everything I can to fight for the NHS. An NHS which was born under the principles of equality and freedom from the fear of unaffordability of illness for those that need it most.
This is about a service that goes way beyond personal interest, that goes way beyond private investment and profiteering. Because when you need it most, the NHS is about standing up for the most vulnerable whoever you are and treating you with the respect you deserve as a human being, regardless of wealth, status or wage.