There was strong support for the Calderdale Royal Hospital (CRH) Junior Doctors’s strike on Tuesday 12 Jan. As well as a junior doctor’s picket, there was a good turnout at the picket from NHS campaigners and members of the public and lots of honks from the busy passing traffic. Nearly all the passers by and patients entering and leaving CRH said they understood why the junior doctors have had to strike, because the new contract that the government is trying to force on junior doctors is not safe for either patients or doctors.
Ciaran O’Neill, a foundation doctor working for the Hospitals Trust, said:
“The proposed contract is not safe or fair. The government has failed to agree to safeguards which would limit the amount of hours junior doctors work – which we feel is key to patient safety. We do not want to be put into a position of care when we are too tired and overworked to make sensible decisions for our patients.
Going on strike is a difficult decision and not one we have taken lightly. The NHS is running today as it would on Christmas day, and we are confident that patient safety is not at risk. As a group we apologise for any inconvenience that the strike has caused.
This strike was forced upon us by a government which has conducted its contract negotiations in a disgraceful manner. The health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has often conducted his negotiations through social media and press release before consulting with doctors. It shows a complete disrespect for our profession. Furthermore Jeremy Hunt has consistently twisted statistics of weekend death rates to scaremonger in a irresponsible way which risks patients safety and lies to the public.”
Ali Wood, an NHS supporter from Hebden Bridge, said:
“I went in support of the Junior Doctors strike today because of all the many times I have taken family or friends into hospital, and have received the utmost caring concentration and attention. I don’t believe these people have chosen their careers in order to get rich quick, and if they are telling us that the NHS organisation is heading for trouble, then we should sit up and listen. The Junior Doctors say this new contract will make their role difficult, therefore it will be difficult to keep or recruit staff, therefore the NHS will be run down longterm.”
CRH already has big problems recruiting and keeping staff
Recruitment and retention of doctors at CRH has been a problem for years and is now becoming critical. It will only get worse if Hunt imposes his unsafe, unfair contract on junior doctors.
One of the junior doctors on the picket said that in the field they’re training in, the Trust has had to bring back a retired consultant to work because there aren’t enough consultants in this department. There is also a reliance on locums, and although they are good doctors, they don’t know how the CRH systems and processes work and can’t provide continuity in junior doctors’ training.
Another junior doctor said,
“I’ve got a child in school and that’s the only reason I haven’t gone to Australia or Canada where doctors hours and working conditions are far better.”
Staff recruitment and retention problems are justification for plans to close our A&E
The inability of the hospitals Trust to recruit and retain enough staff lies at the heart of the decision to close at least one of the two A&E Departments that serve Huddersfield and Halifax, that was announced to huge public opposition two years ago – although now the Clinical Commissioning Groups claim there’s been no public opposition to their plan. They are about to finally put the hospital cuts plan forward in a pre-consultation Business Case document at a joint meeting of Greater Huddersfield and Calderdale Clinical Commissioning Groups on 20th January, when they will decide if the plans are ready for public consultation.
None of the junior doctors on the picket had heard about this so-called Right Care Right Place Right Time scheme, nor had many members of the community picket.
A retired consultant on the picket to support junior doctors said,
“It’s not surprising that junior doctors haven’t heard about the planned hospital cuts, they’re so overworked that even organising this picket must have been really difficult.”
NHS England’s plan for a “modern workforce” – deprofessionalised, flexible, downgraded, cheap
The hospital cuts, closures and downgrades and the unsafe unfair contracts that Hunt is trying to impose on the junior doctors are both key to the government’s plan to run down the NHS in order to sell it off to private health insurance companies.
The brainchild of Simon Stevens, who previously worked for global American health insurance company United Health, NHS England’s Five Year Forward View includes plans for a “modern workforce” – ie deskilled, de-professionalised, downgraded, flexible, cheap.
The Junior Doctors’ strike offers massive resistance to these plans.
CRH in “black alert” last week
Under huge financial and operational pressure as a result of 5 years of so-called “efficiency savings” imposed by the Coalition government (first proposed by the New Labour government on the basis of McKinsey recommendations), CRH has been on black alert for around a week, according to staff who work there.
Black alert is when the hospital can’t take any more patients because it hasn’t got beds for them.
Last week, CRH opened 2 and a half wards to cope with the extra demand and also had 2 lists cancelled – basically 2 theatres – so that Drs. were available to work in other Theatres.
One of the junior doctors said:
“When there’s a black alert, there’s suddenly money, for things like more MRI scans and social workers to arrange patient discharges and find places for them to go. When there’s not a black alert things revert to the processes that result from not having enough money – like delays to patient discharges because there’s not enough money for social workers to sort places for patients to be discharged too. It makes no sense – it makes the hospital run as if it suffers from manic depression.”
The goverment’s wrong if it thinks it can get away with dismantling the NHS
Foundation doctor Ciaran O’Neill said,
“Ultimately we feel it is our responsibility as a profession to strongly appose a contract which we feel will give an unfair deal to doctors and the patients we serve. The governments approach to the contract negotiations shows their disregard for the values of the NHS we are striving to uphold. The overwhelming support from the general public for the picket lines witnessed today shows the government it was wrong if it thought it could act with impunity in dismantling the NHS. It tells them to remember that the general public owns the NHS – it exists for people not profit.”
NHS supporter Ali Wood said,
“The NHS is the heart our society, this huge organisation whose reason for existence is to benefit us, the public, I just can’t imagine how life would feel without the NHS, it is one of the things that makes me feel safe without even realising it, We can’t take it for granted; it’s time to get involved and help defend it.”
Oh – and PFI
A passer walked past the picket singing “PFI PFI PFI”, to the tune of “Here we go, here we go, here we go”.
Repaying the CRH PFI debt takes around 10% of the total NHS budget for Calderdale each year. It has hobbled the hospital since it was opened.
A retired consultant on the picket said CRH has a higher quality intensive care unit than the one in Huddersfield Royal Infirmary, but it has been mothballed pretty much since CRH opened, because the PFI debt repayments mean there is not enough money to operate it.