LETTER: Patients must not be pawns

As the bitter dispute between junior doctors and the Government rumbles on, we are left wondering where it is all going to end.

While Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has made it his mission to achieve a seven-day a week NHS care service, prioritising increased hospital staffing at weekends because of fear of increased mortality rates, an independent study has shown that patients who attend A&E departments at this time do not in fact run a greater risk of dying.

Both Mr Hunt and the junior doctors claim to have patients’ well-being at heart but the stubborn stance taken on both sides is not only placing the health of many in jeopardy but bringing immense pressure to bear on a cash-strapped National Health Service which is already labouring under huge strain, not least of all because of the increasing and ever ageing population. Mr Hunt’s unswerving determination to impose a new contract on junior hospital doctors from October does seem to exhibit on his part a provocative intransigeance which can be doing nothing at the present time to encourage doctor recruitment.

As for the junior doctors, their decision to embark on a series of five day strikes in October, November and December will impact severely on the NHS, creating enormous inconvenience for those on waiting lists with large scale cancellation or rescheduling of appointments, not to mention prolonging physical pain that might otherwise be relieved.

It is also puzzling why their union, the British Medical Association, seemingly agreed to Mr Hunt’s terms in May only now to rail vociferously against them.

It is reprehensible that the victims of this now long-standing conflict and its ensuing industrial action are ordinary members of the public who have the misfortune to be ill. Nor should they become pawns in what has now become in effect a political dispute.

The inevitable huge backlog of appointments created by strike action and the damage it will do to an already badly creaking NHS must surely be avoided at all costs.

A sensible solution is more likely to be found by both parties meeting around the table. As Mr Hunt himself put it, ‘cooperation and dialogue’ is the way forward. Both sides should now show greater commitment to implementing these words if any real progress is to be made to overcome this stalemate situation.

Robert Cowan

Meads Road

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