Junior Doctors’ Strike: ‘A question mark over NHS’ future’

The fundamental problem with the junior doctors’ dispute is that the contract negotiations are being undertaken in isolation from:

i) sensible practical considerations
ii) financial reality
iii) international situation

i) Practicalities
1. All weekend staffing needs to be reviewed if a 7 day equitable service is the target*

Practically, all other health professional staffing at weekends needs review as doctors need physios, radiographers, psychiatry, technicians, porters and then there are the community services etc.

2. Junior doctor training in the UK goes on for longer than elsewhere in Europe, and some specialties require doctors moving to a new hospital a couple of times a year. There is a personal cost to working for the NHS (compared to other countries) and if the UK is to retain the highest quality staff then pay negotiations need to reflect the duration and pressures of training. Junior doctors stay as such until they become consultants, in their mid to late 30’s.

ii) Financial reality – The NHS is going to be at least £2Bn in debt by March 2016; salary costs are ~70% of the NHS budget and National Debt is still rising by over £5000 per second.

• if there is no increased investment in more health professionals, you are simply spreading the jam more thinly and there will be less health care during the week
• there is already demonstrable underinvestment: underinvestment is unfortunately best demonstrated by mental illness: it constitutes 22.8% of conditions in UK but only 11% of NHS budget; 92% of people with a physical illness receive care but only 26% of people with a mental illness; only 44% of GPs have a service they can refer patients to for severe mental illness¹.

iii) International situation
A key driver for the negotiations is the government’s desire to have a 24/7 NHS to improve weekend mortality statistics. This is not solely a UK phenomenon; the USA and Netherlands were found have worse 30 day survival rates than the UK, and although Australia faired better over 30days, the ‘weekend effect’ could be seen after 7 days. This systemic phenomenon needs further research.

Added to this, pay for specialist doctors might be similar internationally but reports from those who have moved to work abroad say that the conditions are better and the cost of living is lower. This contrasts with UK GPs who earn more than international contemporaries². (More research needs to be done that takes into account training costs, malpractice insurance and pensions).

Therefore what we should do is:

A. Agree an interim/temporary settlement (say over 4 or 5 years) to cover current costs before decisions are taken on a future settlement which will depend on the outcome of the following:

B. Have a cross-party review of health and social care funding with genuine solutions proposed that can be taken to the public for consideration. This would include…
C. Facilitating a national debate on the priorities for what the NHS budget should be spent on, and what the NHS can realistically do – because we can’t afford everything
D. Initiate a system review of what incentives, regulations, infrastructure, funding flows are required to allow initiatives and innovation to improve efficiency – there are too many blockages to improvement and innovation
E. Undertake a workforce and technology review to inform strategic planning for the delivery of services in the 21st C (guiding principle – skills maximisation)

Julia Manning, Chief Executive of 2020health said:Politicians need to take the lead and explain to the British public what the choices are on having an NHS fit for the 21st century. We are still spending about 2% less of our GDP compaired to many EU countires and despite the Spending Review, we do not have funding settlement for the NHS and Social care that can meet current demand. Unless NHS staff feel they are being appropriately rewarded for their work, we will continue to see clinical staff move to work abroad where pay and conditions are better for a work/life balance.”

______________________________________________

¹http://www.2020health.org/2020health/Publications/Publications-2015/Whole-in-One.html page 16
²http://www.theguardian.com/healthcare-network/2011/jun/22/does-nhs-pay-staff-too-much?&

*1. Original BMJ report into weekend survival rates http://www.bmj.com/content/346/bmj.f2424
2. Imperial research into international picture http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/newsandeventspggrp/imperialcollege/newssummary/news_9-7-2015-17-30-44

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About Julia Manning

Julia Manning is a social entrepreneur, writer, campaigner and commentator. She is based in London and is the founder and Chief Executive of 2020health, an independent, social enterprise Think Tank whose aim is to Make Health Personal. Through networking, technology, research, relationships and campaigning 2020health has influenced opinion and action in fields as diverse as bioethics, alcohol, emerging technologies, fraud, education, consumer technology and vaccination. Julia studied visual science at City University and became a member of the College of Optometrists in 1991. Her career has included being a visiting lecturer at City University, a visiting clinician at the Royal Free Hospital, working with south London Primary Care Trusts and as a Director of the UK Institute of Optometry. She specialised in diabetes (University of Warwick Certificate in Diabetic Care) and founded Julia Manning Eyecare in 2004, a home and prison visiting practice for people with mental and physical disabilities using the latest digital technology, which she sold to Healthcall (now part of Specsavers) in 2009. Experiences of working in the NHS, contributing to policy development, raising two children in the inner-city and standing in the General Election in Bristol in 2005 led to Julia forming 2020health at the end of 2006. Julia is a regular guest on TV and radio shows such as BBC News, ITV’s Daybreak/ GMB, Channel 5 News, BBC 1′s The Big Questions, BBC Radio, LBC and has taken part in debates and contributed to BBC’s Newsnight, Panorama, You and Yours and ITV’s The Week. She is mum to a rugby-mad son, a daughter passionate about Shakespeare, and wife of a comprehensive school assistant head-teacher. She loves gardening, ballet, Zimbabwe, her Westies Skye and Angus, is an honorary research associate at UCL and a Fellow of the RSA.
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