Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Thoughts from the Picket Line



I arrived at the picket line at Royal Lancaster Infirmary at 8am on Wednesday just as the photographer was arriving to take some pictures for his latest story. There is still significant media interest in the strikes - which are the first set of doctors strikes in 40 years.

The junior doctors had arrived and were getting their banners ready and it was fantastic to see some local teachers turn up to support our doctors. The rain didn’t dent our spirits and we spoke to many passers by who supported us and hundreds of cars honked their horns in support as they drive by.

As a GP I support our junior colleagues 100% in this fight for a safe and fair contract and what is in effect a fight for the NHS. I know they don’t want to be on strike but they have been forced into this by Cameron and Hunt who now see doctors as their enemy and are trying to crush them.
A consultant came out to the picket line and brought coffee for us and I had a chat with him. He said the consultants were showing huge support for the junior doctors and would continue to do so during the next escalation to a full walk out in late April.

In most democracies if a Health Secretary had handled the situation so badly that junior doctors had gone on strike he would have ben sacked. But not in this country. We have a government prepared to bully doctors and force through and implement a contract that is manifestly unsafe, unfair and what we have recently seen is actually discriminatory – to women on the whole.
Junior doctors have been left with no choice as Cameron and Hunt refuse to talk. The doctors are livid at how they have been publicly vilified by politicians prepared to lie about statistics in order to justify their misplaced ideology.

It made me think once more how GPs have it bad at the moment too. With a crushing workload, no time to think or take stock of the 50-60 patients we see at 10 minute intervals each day, the GP profession is on its knees and many are walking away because they can’t continue. 12-14 hour non stop days are the norm and it is killing my specialty. I am so angry at what is being done to what was once the jewel in the crown of the NHS. Many GPs say they no longer feel safe in their day to day work given all the government has piled on us.

In a way I would like GPs to be on strike side by side with our junior colleagues to show the dreadful state the NHS is in due to the neglect of this government. Year on year real cuts to the NHS budget has left the service close to collapse. When the NHS needs 4% increases each year to keep up with the care needed it has been getting 0.9% for the past 6 years.

When the junior doctors change jobs in August (as they do each year) there will be huge gaps in rotas as doctors will have gone abroad or just left medicine. Their morale is so low they do not want to work under this imposed contract.  I think some hospitals will seriously struggle to fill rotas leaving doctors to care for ever increasing numbers of patients overnight and making it less and less safe.
The government should be ashamed of itself having brought the service to its knees but they continue to ply us with their lies about the NHS doing well and care improving – when every NHS staff member knows the exact opposite is true.

It is a national scandal. It should see a government fall. It should see millions of us on the streets.
The only way to stop what is happening is to get angry and get active. Join campaigning groups, get family & friends to write to their MPs, write to the local press, oh and above all support your junior doctors and tell them you stand shoulder to shoulder with them.

They are fighting for your NHS. An NHS that might not be around much longer.