Big Society, Disability and Civil Society Research

Website for ESRC research project 'Big Society? Disabled People with Learning Disabilities and Civil Society'

A deadly mix: The Junior Doctors’ strike, austerity and disabled people

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 As junior doctors strike today what does this say about the current state of the NHS? The marketisation and dismantling of the NHS has been a key mark of policy at least since New Labour. But the current battle between junior doctors and the government relates to new contracts that doctors suggest will make their jobs more pressured thus lowering standards of patient care. But we have been before.

The recent #JusticeforLB and #107daysofaction campaigns have drawn attention to the myriad of ways in which people with learning disabilities are being failed, let down and neglected by our systems of healthcare. One of the recurring criticisms relates to the farming off of whole sections of the NHS to private providers who, inevitably, are expected to balance ‘value for money’ against ‘the quality of patient care’. Some would argue that in times of austerity we should expect the private sector to fill the spaces left by a radically receding health and welfare system. After all, aren’t we all neoliberal now? And there are of course many policy makers and service providers who now accept privatisation as the primary means of service delivery. But what is impossible to deny are the human costs of changes to healthcare and welfare provision.


  • A suicide letter, written to the health minister, left by a junior doctor who felt unable to cope any further in their role [1]


  • The deaths of people with learning disabilities as a result of poor service provision, institutional neglect and system failure [2]


  • Changes to disability and employment benefits that have led to a number of suicides on the part of people who felt bereft without welfare support [3].


Some might say that it is an imperfect science to suggest that a rise in patient/staff deaths is positively correlated with the increased privatisation of healthcare. However, it would not be pushing the argument too far to conclude this; that these times of austerity and marketisation are deadly.








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