Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/872/21486
BMA strike ballot
Junior doctors fight government attacks
Zoe Brunswick, Medical student
In another scandalous attack on the NHS, the government is pushing through a brutal new contract for junior doctors. The new contract, which would take effect from August 2016, threatens to extend 'social working hours', remove the 'banding' pay system and associated safeguards and scrap automatic annual pay progression.
These new terms will affect all doctors below consultant level; not only juniors in their mid-twenties but doctors who could have been working for ten or more years.
The extension of standard time from 7am-7pm Monday to Friday to 7am-10pm Monday to Saturday could mean a pay cut of around 30% for many junior doctors. GP trainees are hit especially hard as their pay supplement (currently in place to ensure they are paid the same as their peers) is scrapped.
The end of automatic pay progression will prevent doctors from being able to take time out of training and discourage them from retraining, as their pay could freeze or even fall. This will especially affect women doctors who wish to start families and those who must take time out for ill health.
The change in contracts is not only a danger for junior doctors, but also for the patients and NHS as a whole. Doctors who are forced to work long and unsociable hours for low pay are much more likely to make mistakes, putting patient lives at risk.
Many will also choose to leave the country, taking their transferable skills to a place where they are valued. Last week, 1,644 requests for the certificate required to work abroad were filled out in just three days, up from the usual 25 a day.
With record numbers of doctors threatening to leave the country, Cameron's promise of a '7 day NHS' with 'thousands more doctors' is even further from the truth now than it was when first announced.
This dismantling of junior doctor contracts is just another step taken by the Tory government in their quest to destroy the publicly funded NHS and leave it open for privatisation.
As raised by a doctor on BBC Question Time (24 September), during the financial crisis bankers were allowed to keep their bonuses as they were deemed too much of an asset to the country to let them leave.
In comparison, this awful new contract being imposed on doctors shows how little the government cares for the wellbeing of doctors and patients alike.
However, despite this terrible onslaught from the government, the British Medical Association (BMA), junior doctors and medical students across the country are fighting back.
Thousands of angry doctors marched through central London on Monday 28 September after a meeting with NHS employers was cancelled.
Moreover, thousands of doctors are attending meetings to lobby employers, letting them know that their attack of the NHS is completely unacceptable. Most importantly, the BMA confirmed on 26 September that they will ballot their junior doctors for strike action, a decision supported by a 50,000 strong petition of doctors and members of the public.
The Socialist Party demands an end to privatisation of the NHS and a fair, living wage for all employees. We welcome the BMA's decision to ballot their members and we call for all healthcare unions to organise coordinated industrial action to end the attacks on the NHS.
In The Socialist 30 September 2015:
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