Money! No one gets into medical school, saying, 'Like the pay and lifestyle '. It is still, 'I want to help people ever since my grandmother became ill'. Yet Health Secretary Lansley managed to portray British doctors as greedy professionals putting patients at risk, dipping centuries of reputation to the level of bankers. Clever politics. It put off many doctors from taking industrial action on June 21st. But the losers might be the public at large. What's Lansley's game?
'£120,000 pay packet, £68,000 pension, people can only dream of!' said Lansley. Few doctors get that, but it clipped public support. The BMA had no answer. The best it came up with, 'Government reneged on the 2008 agreement and misleading'. But this Tory Government has reneged on almost everything that Labour committed to. School buildings, Education Maintenance Allowance, Bobbys on the beat, etc. That's parliamentary democracy. Except of course, Banker's bonuses! Bankers are more powerful than parliament. Doctors are not.
His other attack was even more cheeky. 'Pity the patients who have had their operations and appointments postponed!' The BMA was outwitted. Everyday, operations get cancelled due to bed shortages and clinic appointments postponed because of targets, all caused by Lansley's policies! The press allowed him to get away with it.
Doctors are not apolitical creatures. There is enough politics in hospitals. But on the big game, the doctors union, the BMA had no bite.
For instance the government didn't turn around to its own Bankers in RBS, Lloyds etc and say, 'Sorry boys, cannot have millions pound pay packages this time; austerity.' Joe public can't even dream of these amounts. And neither does Gov't say that to industry bosses who lay off workers to pay themselves hundred times more as 'austerity bonuses'.
Fact is that some of the best doctors could easily manage big banks or industries. They have the IQ. So if money is their motivation, they are in a bum job. As my local shopkeeper once said, 'Why you become doctor! loads more money in pharmacy!'
British doctors are not greedy. Most work extra hours without remuneration. Almost all will put a medical emergency before their social calendar if no duty doctor is available. A banker will want a bonus for each second. It was disingenuous of Langley to portray doctors as greedy.
The Government says it cannot even contemplate cutting bankers mega pay-packets because they might leave us and join Bank of Timbuktu. And so will chief executives of industry.
But that is the game behind Lansley's pressure upon doctors. While Gov't wants to stop bankers fleeing, it wants top doctors to flee, to jump ship from NHS. Its all about the privatisation agenda according to Hopkinson et al (Lancet).
Compared to the million dollar doctors in USA, most British consultants already earn far less than their market worth. They top up with some private work. Squeeze them more, then the private sector will become a necessary alternative. That's the Government's game.
Tory governments have long wanted to break significant parts of the NHS and hand it to the private sector. Big money has been salivating after Britain's Health Care industry. It is the last of the functioning national services. The most precious group obstructing Tory designs and supporting the public's love of the NHS has been the doctors.
A run down NHS with a thriving private sector along American lines will solve many fiscal problems for the Government. NHS budget would come down dramatically, the Government can reduce top taxes further, while those who can afford insurance premiums will have good medical care.
But the Tories don't want this on their head. They want top doctors to start the flight to the private sector and be the fall guys. Clever?
Secondly, by making pensions a reduced burden on the employer, GP surgeries and cottage hospitals can be packaged off to the private sector as 'financially profitable' outfits. Just like other contracted out services of the State.
Conspiracy theory? Politics are very much like war (Churchill). And war is all about conspiracies, from the Trojan horse to WMDs. So politics is a game of conspiracies. The BMA, unlike other Trade Unions, is unfortunately too benign for this.
This industrial action is not about greed. Unlike bankers whose bluff has never been called, British doctors can actually get far better wages in Canada, USA or Australia. This action is about saving the NHS and receive a reasonable remuneration albeit less than colleagues elsewhere who enjoy better weather, purchasing power and tax breaks (Australia).
The BMA may have lost some face but the losers will be the general public if Lansley succeeds in pushing top doctors to choose between NHS and an emerging but attractive private sector. British doctors are passionate about the NHS and serving their patients.
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