Defend our doctors….
I am entirely sure that doctors, like other workers in critical, safety-sensitive, positions do not take a decision to take industrial action lightly. When they do take this decision, as they did yesterday, therefore their reasons deserve serious examination. Firstly, we can dismiss the notion that they should not be allowed to strike and that their strike is somehow ‘reckless’. Every single person has the right to withdraw their labour, there are no exceptions, and the British Medical Association has made it quite clear emergency care will still be provided;
“On that day, doctors will be in their usual workplaces but providing urgent and emergency care only”, wrote the BMA.
“We will be postponing non-urgent cases and although this will be disruptive to the NHS, rest assured, doctors will be there when our patients need us most and our action will not impact on your safety.”
In this context we can see the BMA is behaving responsibly, not putting peoples lives in danger but still exercising its right to make its voice heard. Sadly, Andy Burnham seems to have sided with those who think that doctors have no right to take any kind of action whatsoever;
“It’s the BMA’s right to make their own decision, but even at this stage I would urge doctors to pull back from any form of action that damages patient care, including disruption to non-urgent care.
“Instead, I would urge the BMA to follow other routes in making clear the substance of their disagreement with the Government.”
By implication, Mr Burnham rules out doctors right to strike as there is no form of actual strike action that would fulfill his criteria. Furthermore, he doesn’t really offer the doctors any answers having previously accepted their ‘strength of feeling’ is essentially legitimate. Once again we see what a hopeless muddle the Labour leadership gets itself in when it is confronted with this kind of situation. Rather than make an objective assessment of the issues at stake it twists and turns. trying to please everybody all of the time.
It is telling that the right-wing press have immediately sought to tarnish doctors as ‘greedy’ (notice how every striker is always ‘greedy’). This cheap attempt to play workers off against each other, one that does nothing to explain what doctors actually do to earn their money, the emotional stresses and strains, the long hours, etc is not one we should be reinforcing but combating.
Mr Burnham however acknowledges the doctors dispute has to be looked at both in the particular, a dispute over pensions, and the wider context of this governments ideological assault on the public sector. Changing pension schemes is only the first step in a program of dismantlement that moves through regional pay to the eventual end of a public sector that has been entirely privatised leaving the poor and the needy cast totally adrift. It is the height of hypocrisy for Mr Lansley to criticise one day’s worth of industrial action for the disruption it will cause on the day figures revealed his policies are leading to sky-rocketing waiting times for accident and emergency patients. Doctors would have to go on strike for alot longer than one day to do the kind of damage he and his Party are doing to patient care.
We should defend our doctors and support them as they take an action that has been forced upon them by an intransigent, ideologically driven government, which cares not a jot for anything other than its zealot’s agenda to destroy our NHS once and for all.