Sunday, 17 January 2016

Support for Junior Doctors

It is clear to me that the vast majority of people treasure the National Health Service, and the historic values that it represents of a universal service, free at the point of use for one and all.

As someone who stood in the 2015 General Election, I do recall that the future of the NHS was the issue raised most often with the candidates.

The concerns were varied and included a particular fear at the creeping privatisation of the NHS and the associated ideological tinkering with what is our greatest public service.

I continue to very much share these views, and the recent failings of the private company delivering cleaning services for the Royal Cornwall Trust do show that there is no place for profit in the provision of healthcare.

And this week, junior doctors went on strike, for the first time in over forty years, in a dispute about a new contract being put in place by the Government.

The British Medical Association has made it clear that “industrial action” was always the “last resort” for the medical profession but, in this case, the alternative was a contract that “threatened patient care.”

At the Mebyon Kernow Conference in November, our party members were addressed by Hannah Brotherstone, a junior doctor at the Royal Cornwall Hospital. She was utterly convincing and briefed us on the threats to the National Health Service from the proposed changes and the alterations to the working conditions of doctors.

We were all very impressed with Hannah and her narrative was compelling. What is more, her focus was entirely about the safeguarding the National Health Service.

To me, it was a massive contrast to the approach of the Health Minister Jeremy Hunt, who is playing politics on this important issue, and is now threatening to take the “nuclear option” of imposing a new contract on junior doctors without their consent.

I am heartened that the public has seen through the misdirections of central government and are clearly supportive of the junior doctors, with a recent MORI showing 66 per cent of people backing the doctors.

I even saw one report with a doctor recalling that: “We had grandparents bringing us hot coffee on the freezing picket line, mums and their pre-schoolers bringing us homemade cakes, and so many honks of support from the passing cars it was almost deafening.”

Surely such supports shows it is time for central government to think again.

[This will be my column in this week's Cornish Guardian.]

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