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Doctors refuse to bow the knee

JEREMY HUNT has got a brass neck to accuse junior doctors in England of risking patients’ lives when they are striking to prevent him destroying the NHS.

His appeal to them not to withdraw emergency cover “which creates particular risk for A&Es, maternity and intensive care units” is breathtaking since no-one knows the problems in these areas better than they do.

Despite their all-out strike decision, junior doctors’ representatives have arranged with senior medical staff to provide a safe level of services in such units.

The Health Secretary’s decision to halt negotiations with the British Medical Association and impose his contract on junior doctors was a blatant provocation.

It left them with a situation recognised by trade unionists over the ages — submit or resist.

To their credit, the junior doctors have refused to bow the knee to government diktat, understanding that Hunt’s discriminatory and divisive contract would destroy morale within the NHS, cause doctors to walk away from it and risk its very existence.

The government must know that the public is solidly behind the doctors and that their case is backed by fellow health professionals and patients.

So it is resorting to the most shameful of Thatcherite smear tactics of accusing the BMA of being indifferent to the fate of patients and of wanting to overthrow the government.

The Tories have descended into the gutter by accusing BMA junior doctors’ leaders of having “radicalised” a generation of their peers.

Such stupid comments reveal their inability to comprehend that it is the government’s own pig-headed obstinacy that has angered the medical profession and driven junior doctors to think more trenchantly about the nature of those running down the NHS.

Let us be clear, the Health Secretary’s conduct, backed by his millionaire fellow Cabinet ministers, fully justifies the government’s removal, but that is not a BMA goal.

All that junior doctors want is for Hunt to drop his confrontational stance and accept the need for a negotiated solution.

The BMA would immediately call off its strike plans and return to talks.

Junior doctors have already made clear their flexibility, indicating willingness to accept a limited trial of the Hunt contract, anticipating that its shortcomings would become apparent to all.

Perhaps that explains why the Health Secretary rejected this proposal.

He knows that his document doesn’t provide adequate funds for full staffing at weekends but is as indifferent to the likely consequences as he is to the electorate’s preference for a safe, fully financed NHS.

A government sworn to backing the secretive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) deal between the US and European Union cannot be regarded as a reliable defender of our health service.

It has already expanded the role of private contractors in the NHS and, through TTIP — if it has its way — US private healthcare transnational corporations too will muscle their way into the action.

No wonder people are anxious about the future of our NHS.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is correct to note that government underfunding of the NHS has forced every hospital into debt and obliged them to sell assets and privatise services.

When he asks if there is a “deeper agenda” to such enforced privatisation, Corbyn and his audience know the answer already.

Crushing the junior doctors into submission is the Tories’ preferred way to emulate Margaret Thatcher in her designation of a workforce as the enemy within and mobilisation of all state forces to defeat it.

The government must be stopped in its tracks. Support our junior doctors all the way.

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