Whether you’re working in the medical industry, training to join the sector, or are a member of the public you could hardly fail to notice the doctor strikes that occurred in 2016. The junior doctor strikes over contracts caused disruption to non-emergency services and some argued that it placed additional pressure on resources, placing patient lives at risk, whilst medical professionals argued that patient safety was being risked by government policy, and striking was the last option to attract media attention to dangerous and unfair policy changes. So, the debate on whether doctors should ever go on strike continues.
The doctor’s strikes were controversial and were a big part of the political landscape. While many supported the strike and the stance medical staff were taking, others condemned the action as a risk given how it affected patients. While some of the issues that led to the strike were resolved, the question around whether doctors should strike at all remains.
As it stands, doctors in the UK are legally allowed to strike. However, other professionals that work in core emergency services, including police officers and members of the armed forces, raising the questions of whether medical staff should be allowed to. Within the doctor profession there are numerus different areas, raising questions of whether it’s acceptable for some doctors to strike but not others, for example placing a ban on those that work in emergency departments but not those that offer routine care services.
On the against striking side, the core argument is the impact it has on health services and the potential to cause harm. Many routine operations and appointments faced being pushed back in summer 2016 when doctors took part in a five-day strike, with patient confidence being affected due to the high publicity. There were concerns raised that the strike would lead to higher incidences of patients not receiving the level of care that they deserve. While there weren’t any major incidences reported during the recent strikes, it still remains a concern.
Those that advocate for striking, note that it’s one of the most effective ways to exact change. In 2016 junior doctors took strike action in protest of contact changes, which they stated could cause harm, a point that was recognised by Jeremy Hunt. As a result, the strike action could have actually safeguarded patient health.
Where do you stand on the strike debate, is it something that you would participate in? It can be a challenging to decide where you stand and the circumstance no doubt play a significant role.