Andrew Marr: First ever joint doctors' strikes are an ‘immensely worrying’ moment in history that will cause ‘real harm’

19 September 2023, 18:29

Andrew Marr: Monologue 19.09

By Jenny Medlicott

As junior doctors prepare to join their senior colleagues on strike, the first ever joint industrial action from NHS doctors poses a ‘real problem’ for the country and will cause 'real harm' to those with serious illnesses, Andrew Marr has said.

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Speaking on LBC’S Tonight with Andrew Marr, the presenter said Wednesday's planned double strike is an “immensely worrying and very sad” moment for the country.

Junior doctors will join senior doctors at the pickets on Wednesday in a three day show of industrial action as they fight for a 35% pay increase.

Speaking on the show, Andrew said: “The Hippocratic oath is meant to be one of the great moral foundations of medicine. It derives from Hippocrates, the father of medicine, as he’s often called, born 460 years before Christ on the Greek island of Kos.

“A key part of the oath reads: ‘Into whatsoever houses I enter, I will enter to help the sick, and I will abstain from all intentional wrong-doing’.”

“So on this day when NHS consultants have gone on strike for a 35% pay increase - they will be joined tomorrow by junior doctors, in its way a moment in history - the question is whether that Hippocratic oath still applies.”

The planned double demonstration of strike action has been described as “unchartered territory” for the NHS, as thousands of patient appointments are expected to be cancelled.

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Andrew continued: “Doctors say they have been ignored and undervalued by the government for far too long. They are not wrong. Junior doctors, in particular, I think, are paid scandalously badly and that's why so many are leaving the profession. This is a real problem for the whole country.”

“According to the Nuffield Trust, Britain’s senior doctors are paid less than their colleagues in Germany, the Netherlands and Ireland. But on the other hand, they are paid more than senior doctors in France, Spain, Italy or New Zealand.

“Pay of up to £126,000 pounds, before bonuses or any work they might do in the private sector, puts them, again according to the Nuffield Trust, in the top 2% of earners in the UK.”

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The strikes come after the government implemented a 6% pay rise for consultants and 6% plus a £1,250 lump sum for junior doctors earlier this year - but it said there would be no further offers.

The British Medical Association (BMA) claims the wage for junior doctors has fallen 26% between 2008 and 2022 and is fighting for "pay restoration".

“There is absolutely no doubt that this strike will cause real harm to many patients with very serious illnesses, and a great deal of distress more widely,” Andrew added.

“I'm not saying that the Hippocratic oath is the be-all and end-all. It also, for instance, forbids the use of knives, which would be perplexing to modern surgeons. I'm not saying doctors don't deserve more money - certainly not.

“But I do find what's happening today immensely worrying and very sad. A kind of moral break.”