Threatening striking doctors with the sack is surely not the best way to end this bitter dispute writes Stephen Rigley

19 September 2023, 13:56 | Updated: 19 September 2023, 16:58

Threatening doctors with the sack for striking is surely not the best way to end this bitter dispute
Threatening doctors with the sack for striking is surely not the best way to end this bitter dispute. Picture: LBC/Alamy

By StephenRigley

Today is a frustrating day in the long and proud history of the NHS.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Across the country, millions of frustrated patients have been told that their much-needed operations have been delayed again as consultants take to the picket lines for the first day of the biggest walkout in NHS history.

But what has the government done? Rather than try to pour water on the dispute ministers appear to have doused it in petrol by announcing plans to consult on extending so-called minimum service levels to hospitals.

Can I just say that I am not in favour of the eye-watering pay rises public service unions are demanding.

We are all in a cost of living crisis and it is not right that some of these unions are seeking to exploit a weak government by securing huge pay deals far-removed from what their colleagues in the private sector have received.

How can any union member look into the face of a former Wilko worker who has lost his job and say they deserve a 30% plus hike.

But that is not to absolve the government of any criticism.

In July, the government passed a controversial law meaning workers who lawfully vote to strike in health, education, fire, transport, border security and nuclear decommissioning could still be forced to go into work - and could even be sacked if they fail to comply.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay has said that the the Government will consult on making some doctors and nurses work during strike action and told LBC that he would not even meet 'militant' doctors union leaders to discuss pay.

Come on Mr Barclay, you need to be better than that.

These are the same people that just three years ago we were clapping as they battled to keep us safe during the pandemic.

But today surely all of us can see that the NHS needs some reform.

The NHS spends around £150billion a year of which around 40 per cent is spent on staff wages. Every year the costs go up but does the service?

NHS waiting lists have risen to a record 7.68 million in July 2023, an increase of 105,000 compared to the previous month and a rise of nearly three-quarters of a million compared to July 2022.

My experience of the NHS is a lot of hard working staff doing their best under difficult circumstances. Most if them really care.

However it would be wrong to say they are all perfect and all angels.

But we should not go around threatening them with the sack. They have trained for many years, work hard and deserve our thanks and respect.

They look after us and our loved ones during our most vulnerable times.

We need them Mr Barclay and when this increasingly-bitter dispute is finally settled we need a functioning, well-maintained NHS.

A cash-heavy behemoth full of over-worked unhappy staff will not do any of us any good.