Responding to Rishi Sunak’s speech at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, Professor Philip Banfield, BMA council chair, said:
“The Prime Minister has finally said something we as doctors agree with: that he has ‘an obligation to do… the right thing for our country in the long term’.
“He could have used his conference speech today to respond to doctors’, patients’ and the many appeals from health bodies for him to meet us in a bid to end the current pay dispute, and outline how he plans to reverse the severe pay cuts and rising waiting lists his Government has overseen.
“Instead, it was more of the same recycled lines and gaslighting.
“He talked of ‘massive’ pay demands without acknowledging that doctors are merely asking for the return of what has been taken away from them. He once again pointed to the ‘independent’ pay review body process – that his own MPs admit is rigged by Government – and omitted to say that although the Government had ‘met the recommendations for junior doctors in full’, it had failed to pay for the additional money needed to fund the awards in the devolved nations. This PM bends the truth and fails repeatedly to demonstrate he is the PM for the whole UK.
“He said strikes were not ‘in the spirit of the NHS’. Yet chronic underinvestment is not only not in the spirit, but not in the letter of an obligation to provide universal healthcare to those most in need. Whereas our members are striking because of their belief in the NHS, and because without staff, it will further deteriorate for everyone. It is quite something to see a Prime Minister who has a history of relying on private healthcare lecture tens of thousands of doctors on what is and isn’t the spirit of the NHS.
“Action on smoking and the harm it causes is long overdue and a move towards a smoke-free society that stops people starting, and helps people quit, is vital for a healthy population. Only then can doctors look forward to a day when they no longer have to treat people who are unwell or dying as a result of this addictive and lethal habit. The Government also clearly has a long way to go on wider public health interventions such as tackling the rise in rates of obesity and alcohol-related harm, and tackling health inequalities. This will not be a silver bullet.
“Vaping is already endemic in our children and its appeal needs eliminating with a range of common sense measures, including restrictions on flavours, colours and marketing. The BMA believes a ban on disposable vapes is necessary, for the sake both young people’s health and the environment.
“The PM said he wanted to build a better future for the next generation, protect their health and set the health service up for the next 75 years. These are mere soundbites while he continues to ignore and demonise the very doctors whose unique expertise the entire NHS and a healthy population relies on.
“Of all people, you’d think the Prime Minister and Conservatives should understand that if people are not valued, they will find favour somewhere that presents them with a better offer – which is why doctors are being tempted to leave. Remember also that choosing the private sector carries a premium cost to the taxpayer as it generates profits and dividends for shareholders. It’s cheaper to settle the current dispute and commit to the long-term future of the NHS. The PM’s parents may be long retired, but the next generation of doctors and pharmacists want to be here for the long haul – the PM and only the PM has the power to deliver a future that values them now.”
Notes to editors
The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.