When strike action is again planned due to the junior doctors’ dispute, it appears, incredibly, that the main parties in the disagreement cannot even agree on the main points being contested. Do these parties inhabit the same universe?
Jeremy Hunt has suggested that there were 14-16 points under discussion in recent talks and that the main sticking-point rested with just one remaining issue (relating to pay, apparently). On the other hand, Dr Mark Porter of the BMA retorted publicly that these 14 plus points had somehow been “made-up”.
What hope is there when intelligent people can’t even agree on (and be pinned-down to) a list of topics for discussion? These are the types of people whom we expect to be able to perform intricate multi-faceted reviews on complex life and death issues such as the evaluation of new drug treatments etc., yet in practice they appear unable to disentangle the main themes in a relatively simple dispute about pay and working hours. The disparity between public expectations of impartiality, sound judgement and objectivity from the main parties in this planned industrial action, versus their actual performance in press releases, is simply incomprehensible.
The NHS “belongs to us all”, we are told (in the NHS Constitution), but what good can this do for patients or the general public, when one or more of its foremost representatives appear so ready to “play fast and loose” with the public’s comprehension of the basic issues in question. Shame. There is no shortage of intelligence at play, but there appears also to be a suspected over-abundance of low cunning, ruthless self-interest in negotiations, mutual distrust and brinksmanship; possibly on both sides. More integrity, good-natured cooperation in pursuit of mutual understanding and agreement, and higher levels of transparency, impartiality and openness are required – because without these civilised ingredients the NHS could descend into a war with itself.
Triggle, N. (2016). Junior doctor strikes ‘very damaging’ for patients. London: BBC Health News, January 5th 2016.
Pym, H. (2016). Junior doctors – the temperature rises again. London: BBC Health News, January 5th 2016.