I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you a very happy New Year. I know that many of you will have been working over this last week; a huge thank you for keeping us all safe over the holidays.
2023 will be another difficult year. The COVID pandemic has left in its wake a historic and growing number of patients languishing on waiting lists. We have not forgotten those of you affected by COVID and long COVID and will continue to fight for you. As many of you know, I am married to a GP partner in Wales and have a son that is a salaried GP in England. I understand how dire and pressurised general practice has become. Despite the complexity of care increasing, we have fewer GPs today than we did in 2015. This can’t go on.
The cost-of-living crisis comes on the coattails of a decade of real terms pay cuts. We’ve shown our solidarity with nurses who have been on strike; we will not stand by while our country gets sicker. We’ve seen politicians more likely to value a cheap headline than a world-class health service.
The BMA will stand beside you in the face of these challenges. We will not tolerate the chaos that we contend with every day at work or acquiesce to those looking to slash pay and drive down living standards. We will not accept the scapegoating of healthcare workers, nor accept impoverished healthcare for our nation. In 2023 we will stand together with patients, an organised workforce ready to act.
On January 9th, junior doctors in England will ballot for industrial action. The situation is severe. A third of junior doctors are planning to work in another country. Four in ten say that as soon as they can find another job, they will leave the NHS; the health service simply will not be able to cope.
You deserve better; our patients deserve better. For decades the NHS was the envy of the world, and we haven’t given up on that. We haven’t given up on a future where patients can expect the very best care, where they don’t need to worry about whether an ambulance will show up or if they will be left vulnerable, exposed, and lonely in a hospital corridor.
We know that collective action is hard, it takes sustained effort and work. There will be difficult moments and people will seek to undermine your rights and your ambition. Wherever you are in our profession, you can help by supporting each other – together. So please get involved, get organised, help us – you – to win.
Have a break if you can, look after and care for each other. There are challenges ahead and we must be ready to meet them.
Remember - stick together, win together.