Between 8am on Wednesday and 8am today, Friday, junior doctors have been out on strike around the country, in protest over a controversial new contract proposed by Jeremy Hunt and the Conservative government. Whilst on my lunch break yesterday, I ran down to the Bristol Royal Infirmary (BRI) and talked to some of the striking junior doctors – not as a journalist-hopeful but as a concerned individual.
The lovely group of women I met, all junior doctors of different specialties, were the sort of person that inspires me; exhausted, overworked and financially-drained (ring a bell, millenials?) but still smiling and remarkably upbeat.
If what I fear most about this dispute between the BMA and the Department of Health is true – that Hunt (and Cameron, by proxy) believes that the junior doctors are this generation’s miners, let me one thing clear. If you continue to believe this, you are on the wrong side of history, and woefully out of touch with what’s going on in your own country.
All you need to do is look to the USA. The most powerful superpower the world has ever known. Bernie Sanders, an Independent Senator hailing from Burlington, Vermont, is giving the Democratic Party’s darling, Hillary Clinton, a serious run for her money. The Sanders campaign grabbed Michigan – the second largest state to vote in the current caucus and primary elections held by the Democrats thus far – by 18,427 votes; Sanders won 49.8% of the votes, to Clinton’s 48.3%. It’s my opinion, that the Obama presidency, as far from perfect it has been thus far (see Edward Snowden, Guantanamo Bay remaining open to this day fx), coupled with the Bernie Sanders campaign – of hope and further change – has stirred millennials and Generation X to realise that hope for a different hand of cards is out there.
Now how does this relate to junior doctors? Many of the junior doctors I have met, are around my age – I’m 25, so mid 20s. They’ve grown up in the aftermath of the 1990s dot-com bubble bursting, followed in 2008 by the Lehman Brothers crash which led to the double-dip global recession that the UK amongst others is still struggling to get out of. How have we, as the Western world, survived on the unstable and inherent unsustainable boom-bust cycles for as long as I, personally, can remember?
So, to the glorious Jeremy Hunt. A clearly precocious chap – he graduated from Oxford with a First in PPE, but seemingly a Boris Johnson spinoff? A bumbling, buffoon of a man, who, quite rightly – as stated by one of the doctors I met yesterday – can’t even have a conversation with the very healthcare professionals he is meant to represent.
No, no. You’re right. They have got it wrong; Hunt, Cameron and the Tories. The work of Nye Bevan – founder of the NHS – and countless others over the publicly-funded healthcare system’s 68 year history will not be besmirched. Yes, that was a paraphrased Professor McGonagall line, albeit with relation to Hogwarts’ Yule Ball.
Don’t give up. Please. Listen to the honking cars, cheering you on. You’re right, they’re wrong. If you want black and white, you are the angels, they’re the demons. I don’t know how else to say it.
But, organise. Organise quickly. The NHS Reinstatement Bill. Get everyone you know behind it. If it passes, it’ll be the start of the fight back to reclaim the NHS.
Lastly. Nothing is forever. This government, and political party – in my honest opinion – have had their 15 minutes of fame. You, and your patients? You have the rest of your fantastic lives ahead.
Change is happening.
The world stands behind you.