NHS: Wider debate is needed

Sir: Whether the government likes it or not the junior doctors have expanded the discussion on their pay and conditions into a wider debate about the NHS. What the public, but apparently not Jeremy Hunt – who should spend more time in outlying general hospitals – realise is that junior doctors are the glue that sticks a crumbling NHS together. Their support and goodwill is vital. We would all like a 7 day NHS but with the existing economic restraints it is better to focus on an NHS that functions well 5 days a week before expanding. Anybody who has been in hospital will know that junior doctors work at weekends in any case. It will never be an all singing and dancing seven day system before consultants are rostered, and technicians, diagnosticians, more nurses and office staff are routinely brought in.

Jeremy Hunt is gambling on the notion that if he can clobber the junior doctors all the rest will have no choice but to follow. Given the resistance at this first hurdle and the sympathy the public has with the doctors cause this is unlikely. NHS staff across all disciplines are already pushed to the limit and resentment is building. Above all the NHS needs a willing and committed workforce: the current measures are having the opposite effect. Jeremy Hunt must go and a fresh team brought in to look at the NHS in a holistic way – it cannot be broken into parts and needs action on many fronts. High quality staff must be attracted and retained. This is the bottom line when it comes to patient safety. Commitment is all.




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