FAULT clearly exists on both sides of the junior doctors’ strike after NHS services were hit by the second walkout of staff.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt clearly does not understand the day-to-day staffing pressures that already exist at hospitals while the British Medical Association’s insistence that Saturday is not a normal working day is unreasonable and unrealistic.
Yet this dispute should not have been allowed to reach the point where the Government is now threatening to impose a new contract, including a 11 per cent pay rise to offset the premium rates that junior doctors on Saturday, on the medical profession. This is hardly going to improve industrial relations at a time when policy-makers need to be working with NHS staff to ensure that the needs of patients come first at all times.
Given the extraordinary demands facing the NHS as a result of an ageing population, and the fact that patients are most at risk over weekends when staffing levels are at their most stretched, Mr Hunt’s initial prognosis was the correct one. His challenge now is prescribing his changes without alienating junior doctors still further.
How he does this will determine his own future, and whether he can remain as Health Secretary as the political problems pile up. Neither time, or public opinion, appear to be on his side.