Today i took part in the industrial action NHS doctors voted to instigate as a response to the persistent refusal of the government to negotiate, in the true sense of the word, the current pension reform they intend to force upon us.
To be clear, no one was striking. Striking is when you do not work in any capacity. Doctors were seeing all emergencies (which means anything defined by a patient as an emergency) and many were in fact performing routine work in addition. No one wants to see patients suffer.
The level of misinformation Lansley and others are willing to distribute is superficially shocking: efforts are being made to suggest that if we don't pay more, nurses pay will need to be reduced, for example. This is not true, of course.
However, anyone who pays any attention to the methods of politicians in general will have no trouble seeing though this: it is typical of the machinations of the untrustworthy and Machiavellian group we currently have in government.
In 2008 an increase in retirement age was agreed (retirement age greater than politicians btw) and an increase of over 40% in pension contributions was agreed with pathways to deal with any increased need that might arise thereafter. Yes, the world has been going through tough times recently but the NHS pension takes in £2 billion annually more than it pays out, and this excess goes to the treasury. The best predictions suggest this £2 billion excess will be the case for the next 5 years. As an aside, politicians still contribute at a level similar to the pre 2008 reform we agreed to, let alone the new level which is another 40% higher again.
So i am a doctor: what do i think about it?
1) the politicians have for too long used the Hippocratic Oath as leverage in order to push through action that weakens and degrades the NHS.
2) as relatively high earners, there is always going to be negative connotations to complaining about action that affects our pay. If NHS doctors (indeed, all staff) were primarily or even significantly driven by their take home salary, there would not *be* an NHS. The pension has been one of the few features of working in the NHS that helps retention other than personal satisfaction in helping others.
3) the industrial action is indicative of the point we have come to in the funding and organisation of the NHS. Yes, it is about pension reforms and the lack of rational discussion that has been unilaterally disallowed by the government, but it cannot be seen without a back drop of staffing issues, NHS reform issues and the overall funding level of a service under increasing pressure.
Will the industrial action damage the trust the public have for us? i dont know. To be honest, i sometiems feel that the NHS is taken for granted. Perhaps a little bit of damage to the perectpion that NHS staff will always provide whatever is asked of them is a good thing?
We shall see how this plays out, but my suspicion is that there will be more industrial action in time.