Saturday, 2 June 2012

Striking doctors.

No, not Dr Kildare, nor even Dr Mark Porter. But as most of our national newspapers told us the other day, it seems that the BMA is urging it's members to take industrial action Thursday 21 June.

'Doctors voting to strike are more concerned about their pockets than patients'..with thanks to the Daily Mail (which goes on to  tell us that
'There will be no public sympathy'... is that a Daily Mail command?)

So should doctors go on strike?

I'm personally not in favour of strike action, but I do understand some of the motivation of those who are. Unfortunately I think it more likely to aggravate the public's perception of doctors. The action is called over the changes to NHS pensions. These have historically been really quite good for NHS doctors, and in fact will remain so, although paid for by a significant hike up in contributions which will now also have to be paid for longer. In that sense the same will apply to many others whether in the public or private sector.

I'm fortunate to be in a secure job and to be paid well. Yes I've worked consistently for the NHS for nearly 35 years, and I haven't always been paid well. Indeed when I started in general practice it was the norm for a junior partner to earn one third of what the senior partners earned-despite often working harder than them!  Now the situation is completely different with junior partners having exactly the same share as all the other partners from the moment the partnership is formed.

The issue of differentials is at the heart of much of the unrest in our society-a point discussed so well in Oliver James' book Affluenza. And writing in the Big Issue (OK I do buy it...but only occasionally), Dr Faiza Shaheen had this to say,

We need maximum pay ratios within companies and across sectors to put an end to chief executives getting paid more than 250 times what cleaning staff earn. Over the past 30 years the top one per cent have seen a 50 per cent increase in their share of every pound. When a fifth of the working age population earn less than the living wage this is simply not fair.
For businesses, the boss taking an ever-larger share of the pie undermines team spirit. This then has a knock-on affect on productivity, absenteeism and employee turnover. Those at the top argue that the monetary rewards improve their performance, but robust academic research has found that excessive cash rewards hinder rather than aid cognitive performance.
For a helpful review of the issues of striking facing those doctors who are Christians, Steve Fouch writes,
 So, in Christian workplace ethics, obedience and service are vital, putting the interests of others first, standing up for what is right, but seeking to honour our employers, and in so doing honour God. We serve God ultimately through serving the needs of our patients in obedience to our employers. 
I would suggest that after thinking through these questions and the theological principles, there is one last question to ask when making a decision on how to vote, namely will I be honouring God in taking or not taking industrial action in this instance?
History in the end is only made by those who turn up! 
Lots to think about

History, in the end, is only made by those who actually turn up!
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