Another week, another doctor’s strike. Once again the country is held to ransom by the chosen few, once again millions of lives are endangered and once again the public is blindly behind them, with the odd heretical voice drowned out in a febrile clamour of righteous indignation. But listen carefully and you’ll notice that those dissenting voices are growing louder and some of them are coming from very interesting corners.
Not only has the GMC signalled that doctors could be struck off if their strike action harms patients but also Johann Malawana, Leader of the Junior Doctor’s committee, appears to have disagreed with the BMA hierarchy over the acute services provision for the forthcoming strike. However, it is in public opinion that the cracks are appearing most noticeably, with support dropping by as much as 20%. This was only to be expected as the industrial action escalated. People were happy to support them when they thought it meant nothing more than postponed bunion removals but the thought of blood-soaked screams going unanswered in casualty, intensive care and maternity is too much for many.
The public is still overwhelmingly in support of the junior doctors but they have now upped the ante. Now they have intensified industrial action it is now a high stakes game and they are no longer gambling with their careers, they are gambling with our lives
The first death that is directly attributable to the strike will land squarely at their door. They will try to spin the blame back onto Jeremy Hunt and the government, and the left wing faithful will lap it up. The BBC will thrust a microphone into the Health Secretary’s face, every CiF writer will make an itemized, ‘Principled’ plea for him to resign and your resident office Lefty will sound off a little more loudly about nasty Tories privatising Mother NHS. But most people will see it for exactly what it is – a cynical attempt to shift the blame for something they knew was inevitable from day one (somewhere a PR consultant will have their finger hovering over the ‘Send’ button on a press release that was written months ago. It’ll hit twitter before the body is cold).
The public are not stupid and they simply won’t accept Jeremy Hunt is responsible for a death that occurs metres away from smiling doctors having a jolly old time on the picket lines waiting for their next Flat White delivery.
The Junior doctors have argued that they are not striking for their own sake, they believe they are fighting for the very survival of the NHS. If they want to play the long game, so should we. I find it utterly repugnant that a wage dispute could end up costing innocent people their lives but a consequence of a protracted dispute affecting acute services could be for the public to finally see doctors for what they really are – people. Not saints or demi-gods but mere mortals like the rest of us, just as capable of greed and incompetence as you and I.
Only when we have a realistic perception of those working in the health sector can we have a proper, grown up debate about the future of the NHS, free from ideological dogma, where the needs of the patient are sacrosanct not the survival of an inefficient, outdated public body that has no future in its current form. The NHS is not a sacred cow, it is a BSE-riddled heifer with neither the inclination nor the ability to move forward. The junior doctors may inadvertently be giving us the means to finally bring her under control.
The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty