One of the reasons many people will give against a re-united Ireland is the disparity between the two health systems, north and south. In the north you visit your GP and it doesn’t cost, visit your GP in the south and it costs. Ditto prescriptions. In general the north’s health system is well ahead of that in the south. In fact it’s to the shame of successive southern governments that, even with the Celtic Tiger roaring, they didn’t bother their lazy consciences with setting up a decent health system.
However, if you live in the north you’ll probably have noticed that the NHS is creaking at the seams. If you want an appointment with your GP, a wait of two weeks is not uncommon. There are all the stories of people being left lying on trolleys in over-crowded hospitals. And now that Jeremy Hunt, who’s in charge of health, is intent on driving junior doctors to despair and/or emigration.
If you watched the BBC’s Question Time this week you’ll know that Hunt is claiming junior doctors won’t come to the negotiating table to sort out their pay and conditions. You’ll also know that a young doctor from the audience pointed out that Hunt had over twenty non-negotiable conditions in place before discussions even began. Essentially, in their concern to privatise the NHS, the Tories are telling junior doctors that unsociable hours begin at 10.00 pm. They’re also opening the doors to working doctors so hard over long continuous periods, the health of patients (and doctors) is at risk. It’s clear that junior doctors are prepared to strike over this, and judging from the majority of contributions from the panel and the floor of Question Time, the British people are with them. If that doesn’t work, the junior doctors will simply leave the UK and go to other countries where they’ll be given decent working conditions and pay.
There are not many things that unite unionists and nationalists/republicans, but this is one of them. The NHS was one of the most significant institutions created by a government in the twentieth century. The Tories are intent on fragmenting and ultimately destroying that NHS. Their selfishness and stupidity is seen clearly in this clash with junior doctors. I don’t know if there’s an online petition supporting junior doctors, but if there isn’t there should be. One way or another, the public should be sending a message to Hunt and his mates: hands off the NHS – we paid and pay for it, we value it and you try to damage it at your peril. Talk about a red-line issue.
And yes, I do have a daughter who’s a junior doctor, and she does pronounce Mr Hunt’s name in a slightly different way.