Today, from 8am this morning, thousands of junior doctors will be taking part in 48 hours of an Industrial Strike in a dispute between the junior doctors, BMA and Jeremy Hunt’s Department of Health.
The prospect of doctors – junior or otherwise – striking, fills me with fear as to the level of desperation for the single most caring profession having to resort to strike action to make a point that the controversial contract is not safe for patients and doctors alike, is distressing to say the very least.
The dispute has been months in the making – this media outlet has covered the story over the last 6 months, breaking stories about the continued privatisation of NHS services for example. For a comprehensive assessment of the Junior Doctors contract dispute with NHS England and the Department of Health, please visit this BBC article, dated 7th March, explaining the background as well as reasoning of the BMA and 98% of the Junior Doctors balloted, for the strikes.
For some reason, I can’t seem to get an analogy of how the government are treating Junior Doctors and the NHS in general; are they Hunt’s – and Cameron’s by association – Miners? the BMA could so easily be the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM); the level of distain in dealings with the BMA and the doctors is probably around par with the way Margaret Thatcher and the Police treated the miners. MI5’s complicit involvement in tapping Arthur Scargill – then Head of the NUM – during the 1980’s Miners strikes is shocking, but honestly, I presume that’s probably what Cameron’s MI5/GCHQ are doing to the BMA leaders and prominent campaigning junior doctors.
The key difference between the 1980s and now however, is the Internet. The great, largely liberal – due to the global demographic of internet users – machine is an excellent tool that is like a modern day hydra; no matter how much you police or control it, new mirrors of sites and new copies of articles or content otherwise sanctioned instantly pop up after one site is taken down. Just look at how well PirateBay and Isohunt have fared, not to mention the more secure places for whistleblowers, such as Edward Snowden, or William McNeilly such as the Guardian’s SecureDrop or PGP key encryption across all of the newspaper’s top journalists.
The power of the Internet, but also the fact that the junior doctors have had the whole-hearted support of the general public – I can’t tell you the number of times I have been on NHS marches in recent months in which every car passing us beeped their horn and cheered us on – has made the junior doctors’ dispute all the more of a headache for Hunt and Cameron. That said, it frightens me how the Tories will not back down on this.
The current Conservative government, under David Cameron’s leadership, is staring down the BMA, junior doctors, and – by proxy – NHS England; much like the Cuban Missile Crisis of the 1960’s in which Krushchev and JFK stared each other down before blinking.
Let’s just hope that if Hunt does actually enforce the contract in August like he has repeatedly said he will, it will trigger the fastest U-turn in his chequered, quagmire of a political history since graduating with a First in PPE from Oxbridge, as half of the junior doctor’s workforce resigns on the spot.
This summer will be one not to miss.