I have been very concerned about the latest developments in the junior doctor contract dispute with the Health Secretary. Despite calls from medical professionals, Labour, and the British Medical Association to listen to junior doctors, and negotiate, Jeremy Hunt is sticking with his plan to impose the new contract on them.
The consequences of this could drive talented junior doctors out of the NHS and have repercussions for patient’s safety. I have met with local junior doctors in Wirral to hear first-hand about their response, and I had hoped that any Health Secretary would listen given the huge amount of concern about patient safety.
This dispute is taking place at a very stressful time for the NHS. Irresponsible Tory cuts to social care for older people mean that people are ending up in hospital, and junior doctors are also on the frontline managing this crisis, with their nursing and other NHS colleagues. It would be far better to look at funding for social care, and help the whole NHS team work together, from GPs to surgical staff. Rather than the strife we see right now, which helps no one.
Our population is ageing, and we should be focusing on ways to help people independent in later life. And making sure that people don’t stay too long in hospital for want of support at home.
But instead of this, we are stuck in a dispute that has seen the Tory Government trample over good relations with doctors. Whatever you think of strike action, you can’t imagine that it is easy for anyone faced with the choice. And I know junior doctors will have spent much of their lives dedicated to and training for their job because they feel it to be a vocation. To walk out from work they love must be very hard. I hope, even at this late stage, the Government starts to listen.