Our relationship to work and capitalism extends beyond the walls of our workplaces: the sphere of production isn’t just “the factory” but the whole of society – our households, our identities, our relations of care. Mass workplaces are in long-term decline and unions limited by punitive legislation: our ability to exercise force through the mass strike is eroded. The public sector and welfare state are ambivalent in this: partly relics of the last great class compromise, yet much closer to a socialised, communalised economy than the market capitalist dream.
Junior doctors – in dispute with the government over pay and conditions – hold a pivotal role in these ongoing struggles. Few take up medicine for the money, and current pay’s not even that great: they’re on strike because they care. As ever, the issue’s bigger than the BMA, medicine as a profession, or the future of a ‘national health service’. It’s about how, as a society, we look after ourselves. It’s about holding our ground so better care – universally free, democratically organised, fully socialised – remains imaginable.
We’re calling for a mass picket of the outsourcers and private healthcare providers that make the future we want harder to win. Virgin, Serco, Care UK, Spire, Alliance, BMI, GHG: back off. Solidarity with junior doctors. STRIKE LIKE YOU MEAN IT
Plan C are currently organising pickets in Manchester but we hope to help support this initiative with more pickets across the country
Next Strike Dates
* 6-8th April (48h emergenc care only). We will be picketing on the 6th of April.
* 26-27th April (full strike 8-5 each day).
Who are junior doctors, and what’s the strike about?
A junior doctor is any doctor who isn’t a consultant or a GP. This means doctors are ‘junior’ for different time periods depending on their specialism. They all do two basic years of training post-graduation, then do anything from 3-15 years more. And it’s not just a small bracket of doctors, there are 55 000. The new contract extends ‘plain time’ working hours and removes financial penalties on trusts for rostering staff over agreed working hours limits. It proposes paying Saturdays and evenings the same rate as weekdays. This threatens patient safety and doctors’ working conditions. Loss of pay progression will most affect those working less than full time or taking time out of training for parental leave, caring and research, women among those worst affected.
Patients against imposition
We’re all affected by the junior doctors’ dispute. The new contract will increase the shortage in doctors, make their working conditions tougher still, and will endanger our care. It will allow further privatisation, undermining what should be a universal health system run by doctors and patients for the public good.
Underfunding and ‘crisis’
The NHS is regularly independently named the best healthcare system in the world, yet we spend less on healthcare than France, Germany, or any of the G7 countries. The government are engineering the crisis: chronically underfunding our health and social care to drive us towards privatisation. Cutting doctor pay and working conditions produces a de-skilled and cheaper workforce – perfect for outsourcers and private providers!
Private healthcare dystopias
Health care can and must be universal and free at the point of delivery. The NHS, problems aside, is enormously efficient, costing the public much less than the US model which ritually excludes much of the population from care. Private companies, however, put profit ahead of patients, which leads to worse services. They cherry-pick the most profitable services, poach staff trained by the NHS and walk out on patients if they’re not making enough money. Junior doctors aren’t just fighting for pay, they’re fighting for the future of healthcare.
It’s already happening
Since the Health and Social Care Act of 2012 over a third of contracts have been awarded to private healthcare firms. 40% of contracts from Clinical Commissioning Groups, set up by the government to get doctors to tender clinical services with no experience, have gone to private firms. Outsourcers and ‘independent’ healthcare providers (run by venture capitalist groups with their assets held in offshore companies to avoid tax), are very excited about what is going on. Here’s Spire Healthcare, one of the biggest private hospital providers in the UK, predicting a clean-up. All in our best interests.
“We believe the private sector will continue to expand in the UK, fuelled by uncertainty around NHS cuts in services, increased waiting times and an increasing desire from patients and doctors for advanced techniques and treatments.”
Spire are part of the Private Hospitals Alliance, a specialist lobby group composed of the five biggest private hospital groups in the UK: GHG, Ramsey, Spire, Nuffield and HCA.
On strike because we care.
The government have stopped negotiating and have declared that they’ll ‘impose’ the new contract, disregarding doctors and the public, who polls show are overwhelmingly supportive of the junior doctors’ struggle. It isn’t over yet. Junior doctors are striking again on 6th April and 26th of April for 48 hours. We’re safe – these times will be covered by consultants – but it puts huge pressure on the government, who know they’re losing the public relations battle. Let’s force the issue.
Conservative MPs enthusiastically support private healthcare, and the feeling’s mutual – a large number of MPs have shares or hold roles on their boards, former health secretary Andrew Lansley went straight to work for them after leaving. Jeremy Hunt, his replacement, and the man you’ll have seen blatantly lying about the contracts for the last few months, wrote about his ambitions back in 2005. ‘Our ambition should be to break down the barriers between private and public provision, in effect denationalising the provision of health care in Britain’.
Picket private healthcare
So far, despite massive public support, it’s been junior doctors picketing their own hospitals, with solidarity on picket lines themselves. It’s time to escalate and join the dots. We’ll be targeting the biggest private healthcare providers on the 8th of April, saying Hands Off Our Assets/NHS. We will announce our picket location shortly but for now here are some ideas (see nhsforsale.info for more):
Spire Hospital, 85 Whalley Road/83 Russell Road, Whalley Range, Manchester M16 8AJ. Spire are the second largest private healthcare hospital group in the UK, once BUPA hospitals and bought out by private equity firm Cinven. Spire complained to regulator Monitor in 2013 about local Clinical Commissioning Groups in Blackpool using the Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust as being ‘anti-competitive’. They lost, but being entrepreneurial is all about trying.
Our very own local Alliance Healthcare branch: West Point 15th Floor, 501 Chester Road, Old Trafford,M16 9HU . Alliance Healthcare run care homes for a profit and also hire nurses that were trained by the NHS and then sell their services back to the NHS for a profit! Everyone wins!
Ramsay Healthcare’s cosy sounding Oaklands Hospital: 19 Lancaster Road, Salford, Greater Manchester,M6 8AQ. Ramsay are also part of the special lobby group set up by the big five private hospital groups. Ramsay, as all Neighbours fans should have guessed from the name, are Australian, and have a great reputation for having moved into the public hospital sector over there. They’re the third biggest private supplier to the NHS, mainly running treatment centres. In 2009 they pulled out of their arrangement with South London Hospitals Trust to run a new unit for the Princess Royal University Hospital two years into the contract, saying it was no longer commercially viable. Thanks mate!
Who are we
This text was written by some junior doctors going on strike, ‘patients’, carers of all kinds, and friends in the group Plan C.