Dr Sarah Wollaston is Conservative MP for Totnes and Chair of the Commons Health Committee. She is a former GP and teacher. Her daughter, a junior doctor, left the NHS last year with 8 of her friends to go to Australia. She has consistently voted in favour of easing restrictions on private companies to deliver healthcare in the United Kingdom:
Dr Wollaston has penned a “balanced” piece for The Guardian, looking to apportion blame for the junior doctors strikes on both the government and junior doctors:
This attempt is about as impartial as Bill O’Reilly’s “No-Spin Zone” programme on Fox News, with a combination of subtle spin and phony ignorance.
Here is a dissection of some key points in her article:
“Sick people seem an afterthought as the government and the BMA pursue an unnecessarily toxic debate”
No they don’t, the BMA and junior doctors’ entire motivation is to safeguard the future of care in this country. The BMA are well-supported, but if anything much less powerful than other doctors’ unions around the world. This has come about following years of erosion and in-fighting. If anything, junior doctors are upset that the BMA have not been going far enough:
“Many of my daughter’s colleagues are not planning to join her on the journey home next year and there has been a marked increase in the numbers applying for certificates to work overseas.”
I wonder why?
“The dispute looks set to erupt into a dangerous full walkout by junior doctors. The British Medical Association claims that the contract will harm patients by stretching doctors too thinly across seven days while reducing their take-home pay. The government insists that patients are being put at risk by understaffing at the weekends and that the contract reduces doctors’ maximum hours and consecutive shifts while increasing basic pay by 13.5%.”
She knows better than anyone that net pay will go down for many, yet uses the same smoke and mirrors technique used by her colleague Jeremy Hunt meant to fool the public – “increasing basic pay by 13.5%”. She is being disingenuous here because anyone who has looked at the contract knows that out-of-hours pay is cut significantly so net pay is down for many fields, especially emergency ones.
And how could the government set up the world’s first and only routine national health service when it has been reducing funding for the NHS since it took power? https://youtu.be/r60Hf2CmxE0
“It seems to me that the contract is more about the manifesto commitment to a seven-day NHS and the perceived barrier of premium Saturday pay rates”
Well no argument here.
“Mine was the last generation of doctors to endure crushingly unsafe 120-hour working weeks and I have no romantic nostalgia for the 72-hour shifts commonplace in the late 1980s”.
But we have her on record insinuating that “doctors today shouldn’t complain, we had it worse in our day” and this is the crux of her emotion when it comes to this issue – she doesn’t think these unsafe hours are “all that bad” compared to what she went through. A former doctor who has this kind of attitude should not have this role, because they are using their own personal experiences to influence their judgment. There are many doctors much more experienced than her who had it a lot worse and know that this logic is at best irrelevant (the world is different now), at worst dangerous.
“Pressing ahead with a full walkout however, will serve only to harden attitudes and solves nothing. Most importantly, it will be disastrous for patients”.
New Zealand had a full walkout for 4 days a decade ago – patient waits were shorter, and emergency outcomes were better when staffing was only done by consultants and staff grades. It achieved the desired effect perfectly as New Zealand vastly improved its junior doctor contract, halting an exodus to Australia and attracting hordes of British doctors (when the net flow was previously the other way round).
“How can it be argued that patients will be safer only if all Saturdays are paid at the premium rate, however infrequently worked? Given the scale of concessions and protections on maximum hours and consecutive shifts, the BMA could have declared victory and moved on to focus on the deeper and longstanding causes of discontent.”
More spin – No one is saying this. And also this isn’t about some childish notion of “victory”. Furthermore, do you not think protections against tired doctors aren’t a worthwhile concession? Or do you want your daughter returning from her jaunt in Australia working unsafe shifts?
“Many more of their duties could be shared with others such as pharmacists, physician associates and admin staff”
Well in many hospitals we are seeing physician associate posts advertised (with salaries twice those of junior doctors) but the erosion of junior doctors’ work to become what it is today has happened over two decades now so this is going to take a long time to fix, and people like you who have taken roles in politics should have been coming out a long time ago.
“In some hospitals, such as Salford Royal in Manchester, electronic patient records are finally reducing the scandalous waste of time and resources that come with duplication and paper trails.”
In other hospitals such as Addenbrooke’s in Cambridge, electronic patient records have cost hundreds of millions and effectively bankrupted the hospital, introduced too quickly and with many, many glitches, effectively slowing down and losing continuity for patients.
“A constructive relationship between doctors and government will take time to rebuild; it cannot be imposed and it will not happen unless both sides put patients first and start listening. Saving lives must take priority over saving face.”
And as someone who is a former doctor and part of this government, you should practice what you preach and not keep coming out with this spin (feigned under the guise of a balanced inbetweener of two warring factions), when you know how much of a disgrace these proposals have been, you know how much the NHS has been wilfully under-funded and you personally have sanctioned the many Private Finance initiatives popping out like fungus on a damp corpse.