Junior doctors across England are on strike today. It’s the first of four days in what is now the fifth wave of strikes. And, one trainee GP on Good Morning Britain (GMB) showed how the government’s position is an ideological – and not financial – one.
The British Medical Association (BMA) is demanding the government give junior doctors fair pay. That includes pay restoration in line with inflation since 2008/9, which some – including health secretary Steve Barclay – have maliciously framed as a 35% pay increase.
The government has so far refused anything even close to that figure. A pay review body recommended an average of just 8.8% in July. As a result, BMA members started their fifth strike across England on 11 August.
Illustrious morning chat show GMB interviewed one trainee GP at the start of the strikes. Robert Laurenson told the hosts that:
We’ve heard today that Rishi Sunak has wasted £1bn over the last 15 days of strike action. That £1bn was the cost of full pay restoration last October.
Host Ranvir Singh then cut in to ask what absolutely none of us were thinking: “Why was it a waste?”
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The #GMB presenter asks why the £1bn the Tory govt has spent mitigating the effects of the #JuniorDoctorsStrike is a waste.@RobLaurensonD4P explains its a waste because that £ could have been spent on settling the dispute. But as Rob says, the govt isnt interested in doing that pic.twitter.com/FmmPmVzMxO
— Saul Staniforth (@SaulStaniforth) August 11, 2023
In a moment of a complete lack of self-awareness, she then answered her own question by saying:
[NHS providers] are paying extortionate amounts… for people to cover for your strikes.
Laurenson explained to Singh that £1bn is better spent on retaining existing doctors and training up new doctors than on ferrying already overworked doctors around to fill in gaps. The trainee GP then said:
At the moment, Rishi Sunak is spaffing… billions of pounds up the wall because of this dispute.
As Laurenson had earlier said, the BMA had previously estimated full pay restoration for junior doctors would cost £1bn. That means the amount the government has spent on just 15 days of strikes could have prevented strikes from taking place altogether. Laurenson then gave a spot-on diagnosis:
This dispute no longer makes sense. It’s purely ideological from Rishi Sunak’s perspective.
Junior doctors on pickets nationwide
Tens of thousands of junior doctors are on strike, with picket lines set up across England:
Why are doctors on a picket line at #Oxford's Radcliffe hospital?
Due to government underfunding:
– #NHS waiting lists up to 7.6 million
– 2 weeks to see a GP
– months to start cancer treatment
— (((Geoff Taylor))) ☭🚩 #RefugeesWelcome (he/him) (@geoff2009) August 11, 2023
Solidarity with our Royal Liverpool junior doctors on the picket line.
— ℕ𝕚𝕞𝕒🐦 (@DrStrangetwit) August 11, 2023
Solidarity with #Southampton Junior Doctors striking for better pay, working conditions and the #NHS lots of support from passing public @TheBMA @BMA_JuniorDocs @NSSN_AntiCuts #JuniorDoctorsStrike #SaveOurNHS pic.twitter.com/y4rVy0t8fB
— Nick Chaffey (@SouthernSP) August 11, 2023
#JuniorDoctors out on the picket line at Bedford Hospital today.
— EastOfEnglandBMA (@EasternBMA) August 11, 2023
— Unite Community Leeds & Wakefield (@unitecomleeds) August 11, 2023
The timing of the strikes means thousands of picketing doctors are in their first weeks of practice. Raymond Effrah, one such newly placed doctor, said in a BMA press release:
When I chose medicine as my career, never did I imagine my second week in the job would see me going on strike.
As a medical student I have now gone through a pandemic, a cost-of-living crisis, and now have student debts of almost £100,000…
It makes me question why I started on this path in the first place: good will and a desire to help will take me only so far. We need to feel valued, and pay is an integral part of that.
However, it’s clear the government doesn’t value the work of people like Effrah. It had enough money to resolve the problem before it began, but it chose not to do so. Moreover, it continues to deny these healthcare workers fair pay for hard work.
All of this mess has come about precisely because Laurenson is right: the government is waging an ideological war against public services.
Featured image via Saul Staniforth/TwitterSupport us and go ad-free
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