‘We are ready to take action – Don’t come back with half-baked deal’ say junior doctors

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Junior doctors proudly donned their campaign T-shirts after the London meeting
Junior doctors proudly donned their campaign T-shirts after the London meeting

‘WE are ready to strike, don’t come back with some half-baked deal,’ junior doctors urged their leaders at a 100-strong BMA London Regional Committee Assembly Meeting on Tuesday evening.

Junior Doctors Committee (JDC) Chair Dr Johan Malawana said: ‘The position we took was industrial action was not the be all and end all but to get the best contract for junior doctors. Industrial action was to get the government to the negotiating table. ACAS was an opportunity when the government was at an all-time low. Hopefully, we will have meaningful negotiations. If not, action goes ahead as balloted.’

Referring to the negotiations, he added: ‘Whatever comes out of this, good or bad, we will take it back to all junior doctors to vote on. The two main issues are safety and training.’ Student nurse Danielle Tiplady brought nurses’ support to junior doctors. She told the meeting: ‘Due to the bursary cuts, I’ve heard so many people say they won’t be able to continue.

‘As well, nurses are stretched. We need our breaks. The wards are bursting with patients. Without training how will we have enough nurses? At my last placement we didn’t have enough nurses to train us. It was the junior doctors that did. The government is setting the NHS up to fail.

‘We organised a demonstration of 500 at the Department of Health. We decided to have a march on parliament on January 9th. We are calling on everyone to support us. I agree with the junior doctors going on strike to defend your contract.’

Medical student Sophie Williams said: ‘Medical students are going to be involved in the contract, it affects all of us. We will all be working longer hours if the new contract goes ahead. Students were involved in the demonstrations in London, Manchester and Sheffield. We asked students to take part in any strike action. They thought most of you junior doctors wouldn’t vote to go on strike. But we brought people together. We also support the nurses’ campaign.’

JDC member Dr Yanis Gourtsoyannis declared: ‘The developments of the next few weeks will have consequences for years to come – for us, for our patients and our NHS. They will be a test for the BMA as a whole. I’m talking about each and everyone of us as individuals working together. The government did not have respect for our mandate, our 98% vote.

‘Jeremy Hunt fears what it represents, the first national walkout of doctors. The government has been having national security meetings to prepare should we go on strike. We’ve had promises of support from other unions, the firefighters, teachers, Unison.

‘We only have to ask for their support, so let’s stand by them when they need us and let them stand by us when we need them. This is a last stand against the forces of privatisation.’

The first of speakers from the floor, Dr Kambiz Bhumra, said: ‘In hospitals across the country, meetings were held, meetings with teachers and others. We were ready to go. I feel we lost something when the strike was called off. Now we could end up with half of what we want and we may not get so much support if there’s another ballot.’

He urged JDC leaders: ‘Don’t come back with a half-baked deal. Come back with something you can recommend.’ BMA member, former consultant Anna Athow said: ‘The time to act is now. Since the secret talks at ACAS there’s been no change.

‘That means the government hasn’t changed its plan for an unfair, unsafe contract. This government has crossed the Rubicon to get a cheap labour force for the privateers. We can’t back down to Tory diktats, they are coming for the NHS. I’d like to propose the following motion: “This meeting calls on the elected Junior Doctors Committee to fulfil the 98% mandate of its members and reinstate the industrial action immediately, and call on every section of the BMA, all unions and the TUC to support with industrial action as necessary.”’

Consultant Jonathan Firth told the meeting: ‘I bring a letter of support from London consultants. It says we give our wholehearted support to the junior doctors for a safe and fair contract.’

A junior doctor asked the JDC: ‘What are you willing to negotiate and what are you willing to give up?’ Dr Malawana replied: ‘In terms of where we are going, the detail of where we are at is not possible.’ He added: ‘The key issues are pay progression and hours, training and safety.’

Neurology registrar Tim Yates said: ‘Jeremy Hunt says work harder for less, sometimes that lesson is implied.

‘His message is: you junior doctors are failing the profession because you don’t work hard enough. The same applies to GPs and nurses.’ Addressing the JDC, he added: ‘We were ready to strike. Please do not give up keeping plain time Monday to Friday as it is now. Please get fair pay for what we do. Please BMA, negotiate something reasonable. Remember we are united, don’t sell us short; don’t bottle it.

‘We are ready to strike. If not now, when?’ Tower Hamlets GP Jackie Appleby said: ‘I call on Jeremy Hunt to fund the NHS and to pay junior doctors, nurses, porters. We have to fight. The National Gallery workers struck and they won. You have a fantastic mandate and you should use it.’

Student nurse Andy Ridley said: ‘We didn’t fight when the Health and Social Care Act came in. You have a terrific mandate. You shouldn’t be striking just for the sake of it but to defend the NHS. Please strike or they will come for us. They thought you were a soft touch. If they get unsocial hours past you, they’ll be coming for us. Please strike and save the NHS.’

GP Dr Bob Gill warned: ‘Behind the McKinsey report, the idea is to not reduce the cost of health, the idea is to reduce the public cost. They don’t need doctors, they need some to sign certificates for nurses. The BMA needs to stand up and fight.’

Junior doctor Nadia Masood warned: ‘They are coming for everybody in the NHS – the junior doctors, the nurses. Please come to the nurses’ demo.’ She asked the JDC negotiators: ‘How are you planning negotiations, how are you going forward?’

Another junior, Dr Marie McVeigh warned the negotiators: ‘Don’t come back with a half-baked deal. We’re ready to take action. Don’t waste your mandate, don’t waste your power. You’ve got our support, don’t give up.’

Junior doctor Jemma Breday said: ‘I don’t think we should back down on any of the points, it’s so important. We didn’t vote for a strike to be pushed further back.’

Sean, a consultant vascular surgeon at the Royal Free Hospital, said: ‘I’m speaking in support of what goes on. It’s not just about the junior doctors, it’s about the nurses. I, like many others, was angry about the way the strike was called off. I would have said, “Jeremy Hunt, we need something from you,” 72 hours before the strike.’

Addressing junior doctors, he added: ‘Many of you have said the mandate shouldn’t be wasted.’ Psychiatry registrar Dr Lauren Gavaghan said: ‘All we can do is stand together. We have a charter, we are a powerful profession. People are looking to us, Support the grassroots campaign.’

Dr Shiv Vohra said: ‘Our aim is to get regular updates. All of us speak to members of the public about what we want, what it’s about. I talk about pay and safeguards.’ At the end of the debate, a vote was taken on the motion for reinstating strike action immediately and it was lost, with a dozen voting for on a show of hands.