Doctors are misled
Militants within the doctors’ union, the BMA, seem determined to force the democratically elected Government into a corner. They must not be allowed to succeed. That is why it is right that the Health Secretary has announced that he will, from August, impose a new contract upon junior doctors. This is not for want of negotiation, or compromise, on the Government’s behalf. Doctors have been offered a pay rise far beyond anything else in the public sector, and a guarantee that maximum working hours will fall. The real sticking point, it has become abundantly clear, is the matter of weekend pay. Yet the Government’s offer of a 30 per cent premium to those working one or more Saturdays in four has been turned down. Even so, the BMA has persisted with the canard that its concerns are over “patient care”. Junior doctors are still being fed this “safety” message by their union even as it wrangles over cash. Thus deceived, many continue to turn out on picket lines. The time has come to go back to work. Meanwhile, the BMA must decide whether it wants to deepen its duplicity by calling for fresh strikes that would include a refusal to provide emergency care. If they do so, hardliners will be taking a huge risk with public goodwill and the health of patients they claim to be safeguarding. The Government has made a substantial and fair offer. Rejecting it, the BMA may now try to use its hard-working members to hold the nation to ransom. If it does, junior doctors should ignore the ideologically-motivated summons to the picket line, and focus instead on what they and the nation both know to be most important – reforming the NHS so that it is fit for purpose, not just this year, but in the years to come. That is truly putting patients’ safety first.