Britain: Junior doctors strike to save public health system

Photo: Counterfire.

For the first time in 40 years, tens of thousands of junior doctors took to their picket lines on January 12 to oppose government plans to attack Britain's public National Health System (NHS).

As part of its bigger plan to run the NHS into the ground, the Conservative government is trying to impose a new contract on all junior doctors working in England.

The junior doctors trade union, the British Medical Association (BMA), has found that the new contract would result in the NHS suffering a shortage of doctors. This is due to the proposed pay cut and removal of maximum hours safeguards resulting in many junior doctors leaving the NHS due to poor pay, stress and burn-out.

Outside Sunderland Royal Hospital, two picket lines were set up next to each main entrance with the junior doctors in high spirits and good voice, cheering at the large number of car horns being sounded in support of them.

Many colourful, home-made placards were evident, including “More Hours – 30% less pay”, “Your Blood, my sweat, our tears” and an entire death certificate written out for “Sunderland” and addressed to health secretary Jeremy Hunt's office.

After the picket line, many of the junior doctors planned to take part in the BMA's “Meet a doctor” public engagement events being held in the city centres of Newcastle and Middlesbrough after a regional public strike rally in Newcastle.

The picket lines, public engagement exercises and street rallies were typical of the energetic, creative and seriously-organised spirit which has characterised the BMA's junior doctors campaign so far. They should serve as something of a model for all other public sector industrial disputes.

The rallies, marches and now strike have all been designed to have as big an impact as possible through maximising public support (66% of the public support the strike according to a recent survey) and clearly and consistently identifying the junior doctors campaign as part of the broader movement to save the NHS from the Tories terminal program of cuts and privatisation.

[Reprinted from Counterfire.]

Like the article? Subscribe to Green Left now! You can also like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

If you like our work, become a supporter

Green Left is a vital social-change project and aims to make all content available online, without paywalls. With no corporate sponsors or advertising, we rely on support and donations from readers like you.

For just $5 per month get the Green Left digital edition in your inbox each week. For $10 per month get the above and the print edition delivered to your door. You can also add a donation to your support by choosing the solidarity option of $20 per month.

Freecall now on 1800 634 206 or follow the support link below to make a secure supporter payment or donation online.