The trade union movement affirmed its continued solidarity with junior doctors in their on-going dispute with the government, which has sought to impose a contract that the doctors say is unfair to them and unsafe for patients.
An emergency motion, which was carried, called on Congress yesterday (September 14) to continue to provide support to the British Medical Association (BMA) and its members, to continue to promote the use of national terms and conditions in the NHS and to make the case for a properly funded health service.
It also demanded that the government lift the imposed contract and find a solution together with the BMA in order to resolve the dispute.
Unite delegate and NHS worker Alan Dobbie, who spoke in support of the motion, highlighted concerns over the government’s aims for a seven-day health service.
“The health service has too few staff and too little money to deliver the government’s promised ‘truly seven day NHS’,” he argued.
This was not a comment from the BMA, he noted, but was actually advice from health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s most senior advisers, which Hunt tried to hide from the public.
But McGovern said that thanks to investigative journalism, “we know about a risk register that had so many red indicators it would do Santa proud.”
“Their warnings are no joke,” he argued. “The biggest danger officials said is ‘workforce overload’ – a lack of available GPs, hospital consultants and other health professionals ‘meaning the full service cannot be delivered’.”
And only last Sunday, McGovern went on to say, the CEO of NHS Providers said seven-day services are ‘impossible to implement without significant extra staff and funding’.
He pointed also to evidence from Doctors in Unite, which was originally founded in 1914 as the Medico-Political union and is now known as the Medical Practitioners Union (MPU).
McGovern noted that the MPU warns that hospitals and CCGs are in financial meltdown and that the government’s drive to force through the junior doctors contract is part of a wider ideological war.
“This is only the tip of the iceberg,” he said, which has its endgame in the making of an American-style healthcare system with the introduction of charges, top up insurance and so-call ‘co-payments’.
“The junior doctors’ fight is our fight,” McGovern told Congress. “For the love of our NHS, support the junior doctors with action not just words, and support the NHS.”