Today the British Medical Association announced that 98% of over 35,000 junior doctors vote yes to industrial action. The message is clear; we stand together. The events of the past two months have awakened many junior doctors to a responsibility to engage with healthcare policy. Today we have firmly added strength and unity to the tools of our trade.
Fighting our cause in the media has not been easy. The Department of Health’s appear persistent in their efforts to conflate the junior contract issue with their wider plan for a ‘truly 7 days NHS’. The Department of Health say they’re coming through on their democratically elected manifesto promise. Junior doctors say that the Department of Health have in fact no idea what they mean when they say that. That their plan to radically alter one profession’s employment terms has no firm evidence base, are seated on faulty logic and don’t in any way address the support services needed to keep patient flow steady across 7 days. Junior doctors say that the purpose of this push is to allow the current government to look like they have delivered a promise they made but had no intention of ever properly defining, planning or funding. The Department of Health say they are looking for the best value for taxpayer’s money. Junior doctors say the proposals are a false economy.
So yes, the battle lines are drawn….and one would be forgiven for concern that we may soon reach the point where we can no longer see each other above our respective trenches. As doctors however we know that effective leadership cannot rely on ultimatums. This fight is of course about protecting what we know our NHS needs to thrive in the medium and long term. Patient care however is our business and so we will continue to respect that there are millions of vulnerable, sick patients and their families who do not have the luxury of prioritising anything but their next few hours. The British Medical Association have therefore coupled their cry of strength with a call for progress; The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) have been approached for mediation. Am I surprised? Of course not, because contrary to what some media outlets would have you believe, junior doctors are in the business of of high moral standards, accountability and integrity. I would expect nothing less of my profession. We always wanted to talk.
For the people that rely on the NHS we want to say thank you for sticking with us through our battle this far. We want to say this vote means that we are united in standing up for our profession but we are also united in standing up for you. We will find a way through this, because we know our NHS depends on it.
Today’s vote is a YES for patients and YES for progress and a YES for the future of the NHS