Junior doctors march in 2016, photo Paul Mattsson

Junior doctors march in 2016, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Jon Dale, secretary Unite Nottinghamshire health (personal capacity)

Health workers are dangerously overworked and tired – threatening their own health and the services they can provide to patients.

The latest signal they’ve had enough is the British Medical Association England GP Committee’s 53 to 2 vote rejecting the government’s new plans for general practice.

Years of NHS underfunding and increasing privatisation have taken their toll on GPs’ physical and mental health. Receptionists and other staff face unrelenting pressure. Despite hollow Tory promises to increase GP numbers, there are 1,800 fewer fully trained full-time equivalent GPs than five years ago.

The pandemic forced massive changes amid increased risks. Crowded waiting rooms had to be closed. Consultations were mostly by phone and video call. A massive vaccination programme has been organised. Many patients with non-Covid problems stayed away – but now have worse health and need more urgent attention. Hospital waiting lists are going through the roof.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid wants GPs blamed for the crisis his government has caused. He demands GP practices collect figures on face-to-face consultations, with ‘naming and shaming’ league tables and penalties for the bottom 20% – the practices that already have the greatest problems in recruiting staff!

Javid’s plan will increase growing abuse of GP staff some frustrated patients feel driven to, whipped up by Tory cheerleaders in the press.

GPs should now join with the health trade unions that voted overwhelmingly to reject the government’s insulting 3% pay rise. A co-ordinated campaign of all health workers’ trade unions is needed – highlighting the threat to patients from Tory cuts and privatisation. This could gain massive public support and defeat the Tories.

But empty warm words from Starmer’s Labour will not end this crisis. Health workers and patients need a party to take the socialist action needed to reverse privatisation and fund the NHS.