In the last week I was closely involved in the big political story of that week, namely the Junior Doctor’s dispute. As most readers will know this has been going on for some time but came to a head last week with each day bringing a new twist and turn. On Monday we got an urgent question in the House on the latest stage of negotiations at which point it became very clear the Government were not going to budge in the negotiations. On Tuesday we had our regular Health Department questions at which I got to ask the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt directly whether the Government had turned down an offer (as had been revealed in the papers that morning) from the BMA that would have met Junior Doctors concerns and not cost the Government any more money. I asked Mr Hunt to answer either “yes” or “no” and of course his answer contained lots of words but not either of those! I took that as a signal that the answer was probably a “yes” and that there was obviously more going on here than the official Government line. Wednesday brought the day of industrial action but by Thursday we had Jeremy Hunt announcing that he was going to end negotiations and impose a new contract on the junior doctors.
The fall out from that dramatic statement began almost immediately with my receiving an email from a doctor within a few hours saying that they were now considering emigrating because they felt so let down by Jeremy Hunt and that his vision of a seven day NHS is a fantasy without extra staffing and funding. I would certainly support all NHS services being available 7 days a week and some already are, but I have seen for myself how stretched services are at the moment. To my mind, alienating large sections of the workforce and ignoring the cuts in social care funding which have put huge pressure on the NHS are not the way to deliver the world class 7 day a week service we would all like to see. I fear by his actions, Jeremy Hunt will make matters much worse in the long run as we will see increasing staff shortages because doctors, nurses and other health professionals will feel undervalued in this country and will have took their skills elsewhere.