There’s a reason so many senior figures in the medical establishment are “pointedly silent” over this week’s strike by junior doctors, says James Kirkup in The Times. They worry the youngsters are getting it “gravely wrong”. For one thing, their “unrealistic demands” are skewing the wider debate about NHS pay. Why should nurses settle for a 5% bump when their richer, more privileged colleagues are demanding 35%? And in any case, the whole strike rests on the “false premise” that junior doctors are underpaid. If anything, “we need to make medics cheaper”.
Yes, pay is low at the start of a doctor’s career. But it’s a “salary escalator” that will carry many to an income so big that the Treasury is rewriting the law to accommodate pension pots worth more than £1m. And even though the number of doctors has risen from around 100,000 in 2012 to 132,000 today, we still need more to meet the demands of a “population that’s older and fatter”. The good news is there are plenty of people up for doing the job – for every junior doctor, there are four unsuccessful medical school applicants who wanted their place. Why not relax regulations, and train some of those people to do lower-level doctor work on lower salaries? Those on strike think they should be more “expensive”. Cold economic logic suggests otherwise.