Junior Doctors Strike: A doctor defends the 'terrible' action

Doctors are angry at the way they have been portrayed

Doctors protest in London

Friday, September 2, 2016

Dr Onkar Sahota, a GP and a member of the London Assembly, puts forward the doctor's view on an issue which has divided Britain.

Jeremy Hunt has told the world the junior doctors' strike will cause "terrible suffering" and jeopardise hundreds of operations. He has described it as "unnecessary" and painted the doctors as the ones in the wrong.

In the interests of balance, I want to give the doctors' side of the story.

Any industrial action is unwelcome, particularly by a professional group committed to patient care.  This is certainly a failure of negotiations, and the current crisis is worsened as it is based on a false premise. 

The government have said the new junior doctor's contract is required to deliver the seven-day NHS. It's important to make clear that everyone wants a seven-day NHS, the doctors as much as anyone. 

But the government is not going to deliver a seven-day NHS by forcing this mandate. They don't have a mandate to deliver a service which is both unsafe and undeliverable. 

What the doctors are saying to the government at the moment is that "you are making us do something which affects patient care, and we can't provide this with what we have." The level of services the government wants to provide requires more funding and staff in the system, which we don't have. In fact we have a 50% cut in bedding in this country over 25 years and we have a worse patient-to-bed ratio than some countries in Eastern Europe.

The Health Secretary didn't say to the electorate he would deliver a seven-day NHS with no additional funding, or a demoralised workforce, or by making sure patients aren't safe. To deliver this, he needs to put more money into the system, with more doctors. He need to keep morale up and make sure this is a safe NHS. 

We had a leak from the Department of Health only a few weeks back, which said that the civil servants - the ones who are meant to be coming up with these polices - have their own concerns about the seven-day NHS, given the funding cuts and lack of doctors. We share those concerns.

In fact, we feel there is only one solution now. Theresa May should sack Jeremy Hunt as Health Secretary, and bring in someone with a fresh view to deal with the junior doctors.

We have to go back to the table, and bring in a Secretary of State who will negotiate. Or we need Hunt to accept say he's misled the public and demonstrate his ability to be a sincere negotiator. Something which I, and other doctors, don't think he has been up to this point.

Dr. Sahota practises in West London and is a member of the London Assembly for Ealing and Hillingdon. He has his own website, which can be viewed here, and you can also contact him on Twitter.

This article is based on an interview given by Dr. Sahota to talkRADIO on September 1, 2016. For more insightful and provocative opinion, visit the talkRADIO website.