Editor's Comment

01.10.15

Getting a point across

Source: NHE Sep/Oct 15

NHS staff fighting to protect their pay, terms and conditions are not as easy for governments to fight as most other unions – and doctors especially have a good record of winning the public over to their side in such disputes. 

As NHE went to press, junior doctors were protesting outside Downing Street and the BMA was issuing strike ballots, as the government pushed ahead with divisive and unpopular new contract arrangements for England that have attracted the ire of the usually more neutral royal colleges. 

Under the banner of ‘Not Safe, Not Fair’, the junior doctors marched and protested near the gates of Downing Street urging the government to listen to their demands. The BMA pulled out of the talks in autumn 2014, and the subsequent threats from the government and NHS Employers to impose a new contract unilaterally have proven a particular sticking point – the junior doctors say they will not come back to the negotiating table until that threat is removed, and until a number of other assurances are given. 

As I write this, the latest news is that Dr Johann Malawana, the new chair of the BMA’s junior doctors committee, will meet health secretary Jeremy Hunt to try to find a way forward. Some compromise will have to be reached if we are to avoid negative impacts to patient care and threats by expensively-trained junior doctors to seek employment abroad. 

The government’s desire for truly seven-day services is a backdrop to this confrontation, although the underlying causes stretch back years. In this edition, we also report on an interesting survey on seven-day services, which show that the reasons for the push have not cut through with the public – they think NHS England and the government want similar levels of service provision at weekends as on weekdays for reasons of patient convenience, not reasons of quality and safety and, ultimately, mortality.  It’s yet another indicator that many arguments and ideas that are accepted as common sense and common ground within the NHS are simply unknown to the public, which is why communications have to be tailored carefully and from first principles. 

For communications directly to NHS professionals, you can of course rely on National Health Executive, and we have another cracking edition for you. I hope you enjoy it, and as always we’d be keen to hear your feedback, comments and ideas.

Adam Hewitt

Editor

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