Doctors joined tens of thousands of marchers in support of the NHS at the weekend and called for an end to the ‘systematic’ and ‘scandalous’ starvation of the service in the austerity years.
Strong support from the profession was led by BMA council chair Chaand Nagpaul and BMA junior doctors committee chair Jeeves Wijesuriya who spoke to crowds gathered in London to mark the NHS’s 70th anniversary.
Dr Nagpaul called for an end to competition rules in the NHS which wasted billions of pounds of taxpayers’ cash on bureaucracy, outsourcing and other such ‘futile transactions’.
‘As doctors we deeply value that any patient can see us for help and treatment without any fear about ability to pay. We value that patients trust us as doctors to treat them in their best interests with no suspicion of any personal gain,’ Dr Nagpaul told marchers.
‘But we know the NHS has been systematically and scandalously starved for years.
‘It lacks doctors, it lacks nurses, it lacks beds. It’s not just the channel that separates us from our European neighbours but a vast funding gap equating to 35,000 hospital beds or 10,000 doctors.’
So-called ‘winter pressures’ in the NHS were now hitting the service all year round, Dr Nagpaul added – a point echoed by Dr Wijesuriya.
‘You all know that the NHS today is under unprecedented pressure,’ Dr Wijesuriya said. ‘With more patients needing our help than ever before. So called “winter” felt all year round, even on a scorching June Saturday.
‘As junior doctors we see this on almost every shift. This can’t go on. For too long NHS staff have done their best for our patients, knowing they haven’t got the tools for the job, consistently going that extra mile – but there’s just no more left to give.
‘That’s why junior doctors took to the streets two years ago, and why so many of you here came out to support us then, for which we are still grateful.’
Dr Nagpaul said that the extra £20bn for the NHS announced recently by the prime minister was a ‘start’ but that it still left the UK trailing leading European nations.
‘It will not make up for eight years of austerity, and we must demand resources that befits a civilised nation,’ he added.
Dr Wijesuriya said patients deserved an NHS that was safe and could provide the care they need, when they need it.
‘We must keep up the pressure, keep campaigning, keep making noise like today.’