The doctors’ strike: Putting the medical profession in the firing line
There are nearly twenty million people unemployed across Europe today; that’s over 10% of the entire working population. In Britain the youth unemployment rate is over 20%, and the median annual income for full time workers is currently down to £26,244, with the average family now left with a disposable income of just £144 a week – once all their bills and taxes have been paid. An estimated 500,000 public sector jobs are to be axed and national pay scales across a number of professions are likely to be abolished.
Against this backdrop, for doctors to go on strike for the first time in a generation in protest of pension arrangements that will still leave us with a retirement income in excess of £50,000 a year, looks callous from any perspective. It was entirely predictable, therefore, that public opinion would come out strongly against the strike and a recent YouGuv poll has, indeed, verified this, with 62% of the public against the action and a full 92% stating that doctors are, in fact, paid well.
The whole point of industrial action is to win public sympathy, which can then be used to put pressure on the government. The exact opposite has happened and, as a result, the medical profession have now placed themselves squarely in the firing line of public opinion as the government’s real term cuts to service provision begin to bite. The extent to which this plays perfectly into the government’s hands cannot be over stated. As has become increasingly obvious, one of the major objectives behind the government’s mammoth reorganisation of the NHS, was to place the responsibility for all future service shortfalls upon the shoulders of GPs. While the Treasury decides the total allocation to the health budget, it will be GPs who are held responsible for local service cuts as each commissioning decision will be made in their name. It is an extension of this administration’s “not me guv!” approach to government, in which they cut local authority grants, for example, and then attack those same local authorities when services are shut down as a consequence.
How wonderful then, for Cameron et al., that doctors have willingly put themselves in a position where the public begin to doubt their motives and question their public service ethic. It will only require a small leap in the public’s imagination now, when local commissioning decisions are made to shut down a clinic here or a hospital there, for people to start believing that it is actually doctors’ stinginess – or even greed – that is behind the demise of their once cherished local service. After all, they never took industrial action when the NHS changes were being debated in the first place, and it was only when their own bank balance was involved that they walked out.
Andrew Landsley had been planning his revolution in the NHS for six years before he became Health Secretary, but as he sat alone scheming away in his shadow ministerial office, he could not, even in his wildest dreams, have imagined the medical profession voluntarily hurling themselves onto the sacrificial fire in the way that they have.
This is indeed a sad moment for my profession, and a sad moment for the NHS.Tagged in: Andrew Landsley, cuts, doctors' strike, GPs, health budget, Health Secretary, nhs, pension, yougov poll
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