This was a tour-de-force performance by junior doctor Anna Warrington.
Invited onto the BBC’s Politics Live, she explained how blame for the costs of the junior doctors’ strike lies entirely at the door of a Tory government that has been so stupid, for so many years, that it never made any contingency plans for problems delivering healthcare.
There’s a clip below but it doesn’t contain the full interview. Initially, presenter Jo Coburn challenged Dr Warrington to explain
why the total cost of the junior doctor walkouts – 19 days before last week – is likely to be more than £1 billion.
Dr Warrington said: “It is – I think – outrageous that the NHS is reliant on private contractors to complete everyday, essential services.
“Where was the government’s workforce planning when they slashed successive pay rounds, year on year, so that there are too few doctors and nurses to staff the NHS adequately without reaching out to private contractors – who can reasonably charge a private contractor’s rate?”
Stymied there, Ms Coburn generalised the question out: how did junior doctors justify any cost to their walkouts at all?
“I think it’s justified by the strength of the crisis that we are facing in the NHS at the moment,” said Dr Warrington. “I’m not just striking for pay restoration for myself; I’m striking for NHS restoration for the public.
“Every day, at work, I see one doctor doing the job of three. I see operating theatres closed due to lack of staffing. The patients aren’t getting value for money. The NHS is in crisis. This is due to chronic underfunding, a failure of workforce planning, and a failure to remunerate staffing adequately, as a result of which there simply aren’t enough people left to make this service function – in addition to which, the buildings are crumbling.
“The NHS is at the point of total destruction, in my experience at work and those of my colleagues in addition. It’s worth investing £1.8 billion finger-pointing at the government so that they take action, because this is a crisis.”
Well, this will be the last time the BBC tries to interview a highly competent professional. pic.twitter.com/N37qeAL4fJ
— Philip Proudfoot (@PhilipProudfoot) September 25, 2023
So the amount being quoted as the cost per staff member, per shift, was the maximum possible. You see how the government seems to have twisted information there?
Hearing a panellist saying the solution has to be through negotiation, Dr Warrington pointed out: “The government aren’t negotiating.”
Would she get a better deal from a Labour government?
“I’m not assured that the solution is obvious, nor that any political party is in possession of it.
“In this discussion earlier, we were talking about privatised services and how those have not succeeded, and I am not convinced that we know that privatising any limb of the NHS will result in better value for the customer.
“If people are concerned about the moral repugnance of doctors charging three grand a shift now, imagine what it will be like when it has been privatised – believe me.”
Asked who is putting forward the idea that the NHS is going to be privatised (an idea put forward by several members of that day’s panel), Dr Warrington said: “My understanding is that successive Conservative governments have beleaguered the NHS so that very few alternatives are available.
“I think introducing market forces into the health service … has been extended further by the Conservatives, to the extent that we find ourselves where we are now.
“There are private contractors in the NHS; they do charge more, and the NHS has to pay what they charge until the NHS is adequately staffed itself and, unfortunately, because of successive pay cuts to the tune of 35 per cent, mind – remember, this is pay restoration, not a pay rise – there is now a workforce crisis that is driving the NHS further into the ground.
“The public are not getting value for money; something must be done. I do think that the very least that the government could do is come into negotiations with the doctors, who do see what it is like on the ground.”
The Tory then claimed it was ludicrous to complain about having private doctors providing NHS services, as long as those services were free at the point of use – thereby undermining Ms Coburn’s attack line about the cost of bringing in private contractors to cover the cost of strikes.
Dr Warrington picked up on this: “I thought there was some moral affront earlier at the idea that these strikes were costing money because private contractors had to be paid to cover the cost of doctors.
“And that is the same on every day of the week; there are private contractors fulfilling the role, and if I was a patient, I consider it poor value for money. As a doctor, I’m delighted that some of my pay can be restored through additional work.”
At least, I think that’s what she said. She was being drowned out by the Tory on the panel. Perhaps he didn’t like the point she was making – that she could work as a private doctor, within the NHS, and demand higher pay for doing so; this proved her point that allowing private contractors into the NHS is poor value for public money.
What a brilliant performance. She absolutely destroyed any argument against the junior doctors’ strikes.
Sadly, knowing the political climate – in which both Labour and the Tories are planning to bring in more privatisation, spending far more on private contractors in the NHS than the service’s own staff – we can be assured that Dr Warrington’s words have guaranteed only one thing.
She won’t be asked back onto Politics Live.
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