Doctors' strike, 12.1.16, Royal Free hospital, photo Chris Newby

Doctors’ strike, 12.1.16, Royal Free hospital, photo Chris Newby   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

NHS not safe in tory hands

Support the junior doctors’ strikes

Becci Heagney

Who’s the bigger threat to the NHS: junior doctors or Jeremy Hunt?

While four days of strike action may inconvenience some people, Hunt and the Tories are responsible for a massive crisis in the health service that will get worse in the years to come – if they get their way.

Many hospitals have been put on “high alert” during the now annual winter crisis in the NHS. Drastic cutbacks mean that hospitals struggling with patient demand are now the rule rather than the exception. And still the government demands a further £22 billion worth of ‘savings’ by 2020.

But, according to Jeremy Hunt, it is the doctors we should blame. It’s even been revealed that Hunt’s officials were involved in the public letter from the NHS chief executive questioning whether doctors would still strike in the event of a terrorist attack – such is the desperation to smear workers in the health service.

It’s not working though. 95% of people in a Guardian poll support the strike. And a letter in the same paper on 9 January from a patient detailed the hard work of junior doctors and nurses even – shock horror! – on a Sunday night. It pointed out the problem is the lack of beds and other resources.

Yet Jeremy Hunt, backed up by the big business press, has the audacity to say that doctors’ union the British Medical Association (BMA) is making this a “political opportunity”. Doctors have made it clear that this is not just about defending working conditions but a battle to save our NHS.

Last year, the Department of Health spent £1.2 billion bailing out debt-ridden trusts struggling to pay Private Finance Initiative (PFI) bills. PFI debt should be cancelled and the money used to provide essential jobs and services.

The BMA is taking an important step, now the other health unions need to join them in coordinated strike action. We need a movement that fights for a truly national health service – free at the point of use, fully funded, publicly owned and democratically controlled.