THERE are 112,856 reasons why the Government and British Medical Association should have resumed negotiations before today’s all-out strike by junior doctors. This is the estimated number of hospital outpatient appointments likely to be cancelled because of this week’s industrial action.
It does not end here. Even though A&E cover is being maintained, the care and treatment of existing patients, including the seriously ill, will be hit by this strike paralysis in which both Ministers, and the health union, stand guilty of intransigence.
This is too important to be left to brinkmanship. Even though Ministers are committed to transforming GP services after unveiling a new blueprint, an ageing population – and advances in medical science – mean hospitals are likely to face an even more onerous workload in the future. Without sufficient doctors and nurses, no shift pattern will work – irrespective of whether it is imposed by the Government or not. And no change to rota patterns will command the confidence of medical practitioners, and their patients, unless they have been proven to work.
In this regard, it is regrettable that the Government chose not to introduce its reform on a trial basis. How many lives have to be put at risk, or lost, for both protagonists to realise that they have taken this dispute too far?