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Leaked junior doctors' messages are no cause for hysteria

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So apparently the junior doctors negotiators had a different private strategy to their public one. The outrage has been widespread, with the Junior Doctors Committee accused of misleading the public and their members, and holding unnecessary strikes.

The leaked What’s App messages show that the JDC wanted to prolong the dispute, wanted the Government to impose a contract and wanted to ‘drag out’ the industrial action.

But I, for one, am slightly underwhelmed by the whole fuss.

Negotiators in any walk of life – be industrial action, business takeovers or international politics - have darker secret strategies that they would not want made public. Sadly, in politics, you have to play dirty. If you think otherwise, your naivety is touching.

The JDC did a good job in convincing the public it was a black and white issue. But in the real world, there are grey areas and there is no one side that is always completely in the right.

There were definite patient safety concerns at the start – the Government was trying to further stretch an already stretched service.

Juniors won these concessions, and the official message did shift subtly from one of patient safety to one of fairness. By this point, the patient safety message had been so powerful that it remained lodged in the public’s consciousness.

The leaked messages reveal that much of the dispute towards the end revolved around money, specifically the reduction in incentives for working Saturdays. This might not sit so well with the public. But – for a profession – is that not worthy of an industrial dispute?

In reality, their priority was looking after their members’ interests. Considering that they are a trade union paid by member subscriptions, this isn’t exactly a scandal. 

The fact is that the health secretary was willing to impose a contract from the start in order to fulfil a manifesto commitment that was not supported by evidence. The juniors have managed to overturn this through a very well managed campaign.

The patient safety aspects may have been overblown – but, once they won concessions on this, the BMA’s official message did very subtly change from ‘patient safety’ to the ‘future of the profession’.

And they were right – recent evidence does seem to show that graduates have been put off medical training as a result of the threatened contract imposition.

Just a final word on the leaking of the messages. It was a great scoop by HSJ (as much as I am loathe to admit it). And they had every right to publish it, regardless of the criticism they have had.

Maybe the lesson to come out of this is never write anything down that you don’t want made public.  

Jaimie Kaffash, news editor of Pulse

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Readers' comments (10)

  • Maybe the lesson to come out of this is never write anything down that you don’t want made public.

    what if you are forced to do so like junior doctors are in their eportfolios to be used in subsequent litigation as has already happened

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  • It was always about safety. If the pay is so bad for the hours worked then many will leave and the service will be impossible to staff.

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  • hopefully JDs will reject the contract and GPs will resign and end this madness once and for all.

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  • Medics should stop worrying about public opinion and start worrying about themselves!

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  • It's not whether you win or lose its how you place the blame!
    The NHS can only be denationalised if the unions are broken and Jeremy Hunt has repeatedly said that he cannot let the trade union of the BMA prevent him from fulfilling his mandate for a 7 day working NHS.
    Once the junior doctors are discredited the consultants are next then Unite then Unison and the TUC.
    This is all about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and Brexit. Softening up the NHS for competition.
    Quote from Wikipedia "British unions such as Unite and the TUC have opposed TTIP on the grounds that it would undermine the National Health Service and allows for the further privatisation of public services. A Unite spokesperson described TTIP as "about deregulation and a race to the bottom on standards. Unison has fought and won on bringing services back into the public sector. ... We cannot allow TTIP to threaten those successes."[93]

    Former Foreign Secretary David Owen said that TTIP would have a significant negative impact on the UK's National Health Service because the Service would be subject to increased competition under the TTIP regime"

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  • This is sordid government politics trying to smear and trash Drs. Hunt is bitter about the whole thing and his adjenda will be revenge as long as he reamains in his job

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  • Of course pay and safety are linked. Look at general practice. As the pay has reduced, there are no GP's and patient safety is at risk. Then if , through exhaustion and stress ,you make a mistake, and you and the patient are unlucky enough it causes a serious adverse outcome, you are tried for manslaughter .Who in their right mind would become a doctor , especially a GP.

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  • Vinci Ho

    ''There can never be too much deception in war.In war nothing is too deceitful,all's fair in war.'' The book of Han Feizi.

    First of all , we don't want this war with this government in the first place but you all remember the deception from the SOS when he said he was not 'picking a fight' with for instance , general practitioners , a few years ago . Now the fight has disseminated to involve the whole medical profession. So what is the problem of our junior fighters just speculating a prolonged battle but still calling for a temporary truce . Strategy and tactics .
    As I always said , show respect to those who pays you respect in return, even an enemy in a war . But what is the reality about the nature of our common enemy?
    The conduct and morality of this bunch of politicians running this government say it all.
    In this historical period leading up to a referendum undoubtedly will decide the future of our next generation(s), the respectable democratic debate was completely hijacked by self-centred, narcissistic and despicable politicians who only care about their own reputation and future. A head of a government who clearly thinks he is more popular than his party and won the general election single-handedly. In order to accomplish his personal crusade with so called reforms, he was willing to beat all oppositions by any means (Sorry to see Queenie got sucked into it again and again).Simply put , you are an enemy if you do not obey me. Being the faithful servant of the PM, the health secretary has been demonstrating this mentality unreservedly.Of course , this completely backfires in a traditionally labelled 'nasty' party:-
    It is laughable to see the ex-London mayor and Justice secretary saying the PM was 'corrosive of public trust' in the matter of immigration figures , considering the latter is the SOS of 'Justice'. These are words which should be used by the opposition party in normal circumstances !And Mr Major , a main character in a similar soap opera in 1990, fired against the Leave camp and simply called people liars(shameless distortion of the truth , in his words).
    And you wonder what is going through the mind of Sadiq Khan today when Lord Vader shared the platform with Mr Khan in the same Remain camp calling him a 'proud Muslim , proud Brit',while not too long ago , Vader accused Mr Khan of sharing the same platform with Muslim extremists during the London Mayor campaign .?Logically , does that mean Lord Vader is an e********?
    One thing for sure is no matter what the result of this referendum will be , the ruling government will be further weakened as far as credibility , internal unity and governing are concerned,'Zombie government' as being described by some rebel Tory minister wanting to gather 50 fellow party member to drive a coup to overthrow the PM.

    When you are up against an enemy who is disrespectful and dishonourable , is it still important to follow the 'rules of the game'?

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  • Vinci Ho

    ''If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.''
    Abraham Lincoln famously quoted from the Bible: Mark 3:25

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  • The BMA got caught with their pants down and no one here seems to have the humility it recognising this particularly the extent to which the JDs were used and the public hoodwinked

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