Come on Jeremy – take a leaf out of George’s book.
One good thing has come out of the recent welfare budget debacle. George Osborne demonstrated how a government minister can quickly change their mind in the face of irrefutable arguments against a bad decision.
Oh if only Jeremy Hunt would do the same thing. The junior doctor’s opposition to the Health Secretary’s new contract has now reached a previously unthinkable stage as they plan a ‘full withdrawal of labour’ between 8am and 5pm on April 26 and then 8am to 5pm on April 27. This conflict must stop – and it is down to Hunt to make the pain go away.
I use the word conflict advisedly – this is much more than a dispute now – it is more akin to a bloody civil war – where the blameless victims are anyone who may need the state health service now or on the future. And maybe the doctors are victims too. When the arguments started in earnest around this new contract in 2014 I felt sure that clinicians wouldn’t jeopardise the wellbeing of their patients, and as a healthcare professional myself, felt that I could never condone strike action. But two years on – no-one can doubt the strength of feeling among these doctors and their desperation that has lead us to this sorry state.
Hunt insists that the doctors ‘don’t understand’ the contract. Come on Jeremy – it may have escaped you, but you actually have to be pretty intelligent to become a doctor. The British Medical Association doesn’t just employ doctors, they will have had lawyers look at the contract too – and I am confident that they do understand it. And they don’t like it. Never will.
I have been privileged to have worked alongside many junior doctors and have been treated as a patient by several too and I have never come across a lazy doctor. They work their butts off. They care about their job, they care about their patients and they always do more than their contracted hours. Yes, there may be some need for cost cutting and reshaping in the NHS but if you are going to bash anyone- do not bash the doctors.
Savings must be found elsewhere and the planned changes to the NHS working week must be reformulated. If the doctors do finally give in - which is clearly what Jeremy Hunt believes they will do – he won’t have won. The battle will be momentarily over but the war will still wage. In a great little memoir on power – Robert Greene states ‘Any triumph you think you have gained through argument is really a Pyrrhic victory: the resentment and ill will you stir up are stronger and last longer than any momentary change of opinion. It is much more powerful to get others to agree with you through your actions, without saying a word. Demonstrate, do not explicate’
So Mr Hunt, take heed. Please do not beat these hard working, dedicated decent human beings into a grudging submission. Less of the explanations, more of the demonstration. Withdraw the contract – redraft another one in close association with the BMA – and then everyone can get on with what they do best – looking after patients.