The engineered conflict between the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, and the junior doctors is clearly a clever diversion to hide the planned privatisation of the NHS, the reduction of terms and conditions for all those working in the health service. More importantly, it is a Lynton Crosby dead cat, a shocking event, designed to dominate and distract media and political discussion on what is happening in health and other political matters.
The dispute is now being presented, by the government and their media supporters, as a two-pronged battle:
- a seven-day health service, using dubious statisticsc, to argue that people are more likely to die if admitted to a hospital on a weekend. To achieve this a new contract is being imposed on junior doctors, (that is all hospital doctors below consultant), which has a lot of serious implications – such as bad shift patterns and reduction in rights and pay.
- a pay dispute. Conservative politicians are regularly appearing on television stating this false claim.
Creation of a Trade Dispute
There is clearly an aim to turn this dispute into a Margaret Thatcher era industrial dispute where the miners and other industrial workers were heavily defeated. The emphasis on just the dispute being about pay and the ridiculous assertion that the striking doctors are trying to bring the government down. Jeremy Hunt, himself, has scaled the rhetoric up by stating if anyone dies it will be the fault of the doctors.
It is the imposition of the junior doctor contract in England that provoked the strike. This is in the background of the government drastically reorganising the NHS in the last parliament, allowing a severe health funding crisis and capping the pay of all health workers.
In addition, there is an awareness that the government is ignoring the forthcoming stresses on the NHS. The ageing population, the extremely large, planned cuts to social care with the 40% reduction in grants to local authorities and other benefit cuts to the disabled, which will invariably lead to more hospital admissions.
It should be noted that in Scotland and Wales have managed to negotiate with their junior doctors without problems. An advantage of being devolved.
What is the government’s strategy?
It is clear that what Hunt, and therefore the government, want is a complete showdown with the doctors. It will be provoked with the intention of changing public opinion. The message that the doctors are preventing seven-day health service working and the only reason they are doing that is a petty argument over pay.
There will be more and more personal stories of appointments missed, the collateral damage medical horror stories, true or false, and possibly, even, deaths, will be relayed quite widely in government-friendly newspapers and radio programmes and then the message will be widely spread, and expanded, on social media.
The hope will be a spectacular defeat for the strike. However, if no compromise is made, it will filter out, as more and more doctors will have difficulty in balancing supporting the strike, and their conscience, to support their patients.
Defeat the junior doctors you then easily defeat the nurses, the midwives, and other medical staff, to accept new contracts, which will also worsen their conditions.
However, the main goal is the diversion
Sections of the NHS can be privatised.
As the hospital trusts get into financial hot water – due to increased demand, problems with reorganisation and insufficient funding it will get easier to justify privatisation.
The noise of the conflict drowns our concerns that the UK government has not excluded the NHS from the TTIP agreement – as for example the French have done for their film industry.
The noise hides other government activities off the agenda.
Hunt the Assassin
Hunt is good at his job. He will be the assassin of the NHS. Osborne the strategist – carrying out the work for their corporate masters.
By 2020 without the people’s intervention, the UK will not be part of Europe. Our appropriate position will be in the USA. Not on the coast, but one of the rust-bucket states, with a dying industrial heritage, poor infrastructure, rapidly declining health and education service. And go hang the poor.