Author: Warren Town, Director of Industrial Strategy
As we decide on our future ability to be heard, with the political fund ballot in full swing and due to end on the 22nd of this month, members should consider carefully what will happen now as the most recent dispute over the junior doctors contract continues and decide if the SoR will be a victim or a fighter?
After a long and bitter dispute the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, has finally decided that he is the chief honcho, the boss, the hatchet man, the hero of the hour and, potentially, the one who will be remembered for taking on the medics.
Or will he be seen as the one responsible for the demise of the NHS as we know it today? I know which one I choose.
The Conservative Manifesto at the last election included a statement which said: ‘We want England to be the first nation in the world to provide a truly 7-day NHS... with hospitals properly staffed, so the quality of care is the same every day of the week.’
Soon after the election, Hunt decide to be selective in his evidence of the NHS failure to provide a 7-day service. He ignored critics of his half-truths and dismissed evidence that the service that he wanted was already in some departments and had been for some time. With many more ready to extend the service, he soldiered on in the hope that the public and the press would believe him.
Even with two-thirds of the public behind the doctors, he continued with his fixed and vacant stare to ignore everything and the evidence that was against him. But since when has this politician let the truth get in the way of his incompetence?
We now enter the unknown and the potential disastrous effects of this imposition on the quality of care in the future.
Will junior medics vote with their feet and decamp to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland or even to pastures greener, where the climate, political and atmospheric, is more welcoming and sympathetic.
Even if we ignore the arrogant half-truth in the Tory manifesto that the rest of the world is incapable of providing a 7-day service or that the public, even in the most recent survey, say that too few staff are of real concern, we are left with a government that does not care what it does or how incompetent it is, as long as it gets its way.
The question for the British Medical Association is what will be plan B? This is clearly a matter for them but one that we cannot ignore because our relationship as part of a team with medics on the shop floor will mean that any action that they, or the members, take will have consequences for us, for the service we provide and for the patient.
It is no secret that the government will use the same half-truths and bully tactics to ensure that not only the medics, but all others, where the 7-day service is needed, will be brought into line.
Two years ago the government wanted to cut your pay and introduce 7-day working. The talks stalled. The Pay Review Body did not support the government line and took on board staff side evidence that the government case for change was unnecessary, weak and poorly argued.
It was a case of ‘we want change and we want the staff to pay for it’. Now that the government has taken on the medics, no doubt we will once again be next!
Is there a coincidence that the Trade Union Bill seeks to stifle the ability of organisations - and not just trade unions - to criticise and condemn government policy and actions? Is it not a coincidence that the government wants to limit the ability of trade unions to enlist member support to campaign?
You would have to be living in Narnia not to understand the ramifications of the Trade Union Bill and the manner by which this government intends to achieve what it sets out to do.
If you really believe in the NHS, if you really believe that your union and professional body must stand up for you, then be counted and vote ‘YES’ in the political fund ballot.
If you want to stay anonymous, then consider this: If it is the doctors today, is it me tomorrow?
We have never been complacent and we should not be now.