Junior Doctors 1-0 Jeremy Hunt

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I am heartened to see the excellent coverage all over social media of the solidarity of the junior doctors right across England so far today. It is of absolutely no surprise that many patients, fellow healthcare professionals and the public are putting their support towards a group of very important healthcare professionals who cannot be blamed for walking out in the midst of the ongoing shambles with regard to the negotiations over new contracts.

Whilst the strike doesn’t affect Scotland directly, events south of the border should serve as a lesson to everyone else on how NOT to treat healthcare professionals and how eroding respect towards them (which they have deservedly earned over their years of education and training) ends up with a situation as is apparent right now.

This rhetoric of creating a so called “seven day NHS” by English Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is a smokescreen for the reality that vindicates the fact that a health service running throughout the week and weekend actually exists. Clearly there are ongoing issues with regard to weekend care and improvements can always be sought for in terms of improving out of hours care south and even north of the border.

But the truth is that the UK Government are allowing words and rhetoric to take centre stage rather than real action. There isn’t a need to create an over exaggerated hype in order to improve healthcare at obscure hours during the seven day week. What Jeremy Hunt needs to do is to get off his soapbox and start initiating constructive solutions in order to make the patient experience better at evenings and weekends.

Perhaps he can devolve control of out of hours care to pharmacists, as has been successfully done in Scotland in recent years with the out of hours care Patient Group Directive. Perhaps he could even introduce a national Minor Ailment Service for England as has been done in Scotland. And perhaps, as far as A & E is concerned, he could invest in more staff.

Junior doctors are as human as everyone else and too often feel the weight of the world on their shoulders when working. Of course there’s no doubt that the position that they hold is a responsible one. But when you look at other countries such as Australia, you can tell why doctors over there have it so much better. There are more staff to consult, more resources available and less pressure on them.

And those that claim that today’s strike puts patient safety at risk are very much mistaken. The real risk is the continuing arrogance of the Health Secretary in England and the UK Government. They need to burst the bubble around them and understand the reality of the difficult situation that those junior doctors are facing on a daily basis and strive to make their lives easier for the benefit of all patients, the public and ultimately the National Health Service in England.

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