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Striking doctors are living in la-la land

Doctors on strike in London on Friday. Henry Nicholls/AFP/Getty

Doctors always argue that they should be treated well because of their “enormous responsibilities”, says The Times – if they’re not there, “people suffer or die”. But “the corollary of this argument” is that when they’re not there because they’re on strike, “people suffer and die”. It’s hard to quantify how many: a lot of the deaths will come in months or years to come, the result of delayed diagnostic appointments and operations. “Cancer UK says 40,000 cancer patients have experienced potentially deadly postponements to treatment.” All of which means that the grounds for a hospital doctors’ strike, like the one taking place now, must be “beyond challenge”. And demanding a 35% pay rise when the rest of the public sector is being given about 6% “does not remotely fit this bill”.

It’s not just the lives lost. The strikes are lengthening waiting lists, which already number a record 7.6 million people – around 11% of the entire population. And they have cost the cash-strapped NHS £1bn, largely from paying consultants to cover for their absent junior colleagues. Yet incredibly, those same consultants are also threatening further strikes, even though their latest pay offer will give them an average salary of £134,000, with an inflation-proof pension of about £78,000 a year. “For life!” With so many people suffering and so much long-term damage being done, for junior doctors to continue their “debilitating” campaign is just “cruel and inhumane”.

🤝🤨 From a letter to The Times:
The BMA and the government have reached an impasse, so I would like to make a suggestion. I urge the BMA to abandon negotiating with the present government and start talks with the Labour Party, which is likely to form the next government. This is a win-win situation. First, Labour will be forced off the fence. If it promises a more generous pay increase it will win many more thousands of votes. If Labour stands with the present government, the BMA will have to settle for the best offer on the table.

Michael Baum
Professor emeritus of surgery and visiting professor of medical humanities, University College London