Image: Flickr/Garry Knight
Junior Doctors across England are set to commence industrial action on Tuesday 12th January. We are opposing this government’s attempt to impose an unsafe new contract on the medical profession. It is our view that the proposed contract represents an existential danger to the NHS as an institution.
You may be aware that the BMA had initially suspended its planned industrial action at the start of December and returned to talks with the Department of Health. That decision was made in good faith. However, over the last few weeks, in the course of negotiations with Government we have encountered only intransigence. It is clear that the government perceives our contract issue as pivotal for its attempt to “reform” the NHS towards a neoliberal, commercialised system.
It is therefore evident to us that we have no choice but to transform our 98% ballot mandate into action.
The developments of the next few months will have consequences stretching far into the future. This government is wilfully putting at risk our patients' safety, the tolerability of our working lives as NHS workers and the very viability of the NHS as a publicly-funded, publicly-provided service.
Why we need YOU
The coming period will be the ultimate test of the BMA’s resolve as a Union. However, we remain mindful of the fact that the BMA is not an abstract entity operating in isolation from wider political developments. There is no way that we can win this on our own. We need all concerned citizens, activists and trade unionists to stand alongside us in this fight.
Over the last few months we have been in dialogue with many trade unionists throughout the country and we have been enormously grateful for their support both at a local and national level. The public messages of support from our allied health worker colleagues, the firefighters, the teaching unions and the TUC and TUCG unions have galvanised junior doctors.
We are therefore well aware that all eyes are upon us and that the institutions which represent the wider working class stand with us in solidarity.
We are in no doubt that Osborne, Cameron and Hunt will use the proposed doctor’s contract as a tool for achieving the destruction of safe terms and conditions throughout the NHS and throughout the public sector. The Conservative Party is attempting to stretch the NHS into an ostensibly 7-day elective service whilst simultaneously launching the biggest assault on NHS resources in its history. The politics of austerity represents a clear and present danger to the nation’s health.
A victory for the Junior Doctors would signify the first real crack in the entire edifice of austerity in the UK.
Please stand with us. And when you need us, ask us. We will stand by you.
Invitation to attend our pickets
On behalf of the entire BMA we thank you all for your incredible support so far. Many of you will have seen the details with regards to the planned action and I will reiterate them below. We invite you to come out and display your visible support for us on the days of action.
· The action will begin with an emergency care-only model, which would see junior doctors provide the same level of service that happens in their given specialty, hospital or GP practice on Christmas Day. It will then escalate to full walk-outs. The action as proposed is:
Emergency care only — 24 hrs from 8am Tuesday 12 January to 8am Wednesday 13 January
Emergency care only — 48 hrs from 8am Tuesday 26th January to 8am Thursday 28 January
Full withdrawal of labour — from 8am to 5pm Wednesday 10th February
· The aim is to picket all major hospitals in England on all three days of proposed action. Pickets will be in the vicinity of the main entrances and will start at 8am, continuing until at least 12.30pm (see map of already planned pickets here). However, many picket sites will continue into the evening, especially at the larger hospitals.
· Along with the pickets there will be parallel “Meet the Doctors” events at nearby transport stops or public spaces. We will direct you to these events from the picket.
· Please turn up on the days of action, and give us your support. We will then inform you if other local events are planned on the day. If you are an allied health worker, trade unionist or campaigner please do consider bringing along the banner representing your organisation, your working uniform or similar. We would appreciate it however if banners in explicit endorsement of specific political parties are not displayed and that any selling of campaign literature such as newspapers is relatively discreet.
· On the days of action, please do debate us, educate us and invite us to address your colleagues in your workplace or trade union branch.
Not just doctors
I would also like to take this opportunity to remind you of another important upcoming date. On Saturday 9th January student nurses, midwives and allied health workers will be marching in opposition to Government plans to scrap the NHS student bursary. The protest will assemble outside St Thomas’s hospital at midday and proceed to Downing St. The BMA will be marching alongside the nursing students and we hope to see you there!
Just as the social democratic consensus in this country began with the inception of the NHS in 1948 so too will the NHS be the site of Britain’s last stand against the all-consuming forces of austerity.
Solidarity is the antidote to the cynicism of those in power. Now is the time to stand together in a common defence of the NHS. If not now, when?
Dr Yiannis Gourtsoyannis is a member of the BMA Junior Doctors Committee Executive, and a doctor of infectious medicine at a major London teaching hospital.