There doesn’t seem to be any clear end point for the war between junior doctors and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt in their row over new contracts.
Junior doctors launched their first ‘all-out’ strike this week, over two days, and refused to cover even A&E care – an escalation on previous strikes.
While patients in A&Es may actually have quite appreciated being seen by expert consultants, who’d been drafted in to cover during the strike, this is clearly not a scenario that can keep on happening. The government argue that they are simply trying to change junior doctors’ contracts – their pay and hours – so that the nation can have a good NHS service seven days a week, something no one will sensibly argue against.
But the argument isn’t that black and white. The junior doctors say that the deal will leave them worse off, and with the NHS often seeming like it’s creaking at the seams, the last thing anyone wants is a disenchanted medical workforce. The NHS must partly run on its staff’s good nature and willingness to work in challenging circumstances. It certainly is an unusual scenario when doctors are cast as radicals.
So who will blink first? Jeremy Hunt seems immoveable, but the junior doctors have fought a passionate campaign. At the moment it seems that, whilst the public would welcome a ‘7 day NHS’, they actually do support the junior doctors in their campaign.
Surely people would prefer the government to offer its own acceptable concessions, rather than stubbornly to refuse, in a bid to save face?