Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Junior doctors begin second 24-hour strike over contract

The stand-off between the government and the British Medical Association is escalating, and it looks like neither side is prepared to back down. Part of the battle is over public opinion, and although the latest polls continue to show strong public support for doctors, opinion is polarising and government support is also rising. The government may gain further ground as the strikes start to make a serious impact on patient care, but BMA claims that Jeremy Hunt personally vetoed its cost-neutral offer in the negotiations may prove damaging to his case. 

As the negotiations get increasingly bad-tempered, the government needs to keep its sights set on its end-goal: improving patient care without busting the NHS's already stretched budget. There is some evidence that a full-time, 24/7 NHS would reduce patient mortality; it may even deliver some savings. But that has to be weighed against the risks of undermining doctors' morale and recruitment rates, as well as their relationship with the government and senior NHS management. There may be similar knock-on effects for other NHS staff, with some nurses protesting alongside the doctors.
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