Editorial: Junior doctors vote to reject new contract

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt vows to impose new conditions anyway as privatisation plans ramps up another gear.

Proletarian writers

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Ellen McCourt is now chair of the Junior Doctors Committee, following the resignation of Johann Malawana

Proletarian writers

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Back in July, the hospital doctors discomfited both the government and their own British Medical Association (BMA) leadership by delivering a referendum vote, which, against all expectation, rejected the appalling compromise deal that the BMA wanted to agree with the government. Fifty-eight percent voted for rejection against 42 percent for acceptance, on a 68 percent turnout.

The pig in a poke rejected by junior medics would have represented a complete back-down on the issue of remuneration for unsocial hours weekend working, and it is to the credit of BMA members that they resisted pressure from both the government and their own union in delivering their verdict.

The BMA’s ineffectual Johann Malawana resigned at once, to be replaced as chair of the junior doctors committee by Ellen McCourt. The day after the result was announced, health secretary Jeremy Hunt declared his intention to impose the new contract from October, with the new arrangements coming into effect as and when existing contracts expire.

The attack on junior doctors’ salaries and conditions is part and parcel of the overall drive to cheapen health provision to the level where private interests can move in and be guaranteed maximum profits. This is the motivation behind the ‘sustainability and transformation plans’ (STP) currently being railroaded through by the CEO of NHS England, Simon Stevens.

This latest wheeze splits the country into 44 ‘footprints’, each of which have been tasked with doing whatever is necessary to clear their debts within a year. According to campaigning organisation 38 degrees: “Simon Stevens says that to make the NHS affordable we, the public, must get used to no longer having a major hospital within easy reach. This was planned in 2013, but shelved until after the 2015 election as being ‘politically sensitive’. It looks like the STP has taken that off the shelf and that is very bad news. In 2013 there were 140 full A&E hospitals in England. We could be left with between 40-70 A&Es.” (Petition: Stop the new plans to dismantle our NHS)

Despite rumours that Hunt would not survive the Theresa May reshuffle, in fact he came through unscathed. Perhaps his very ‘toxicity’ makes him the ideal pair of disposable hands to preside over the final demolition of the NHS, making him what the Guardian frets will be “the minister for the visible deterioration of the NHS”. Having become so universally loathed, he might as well be given one more lease of political life to finish his dirty work – he can always be replaced later. (Jeremy Hunt narrowly survived cabinet reshuffle – so what now by Denis Campbell, The Guardian, 19 July 2016)

Faced with this ongoing root and branch assault on the health and welfare of workers, the Trotskyite Socialist Party offers this clarion call to action: (Call on Jeremy Corbyn to instigate emergency meeting of Labour’s national executive committee and the Trade Union Congress. The Socialist, 17 February 2016)

We, on the other hand, welcome the disintegration of the Labour party, which has served imperialism so long and so well, and has participated so enthusiastically in wrecking the NHS, and call on workers to get behind the fight to rebuild the revolutionary communist movement in Britain.