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Junior doctors are the standard bearers for a new economy

Photo: Garry Knight, Flikr (licence here)
This government's confrontation with junior doctors, which looked at one point like a traditional labour dispute about terms and conditions, has morphed into something much more important. What we are witnessing is an existential debate on the nature of value. How do we, as a society, value doctoring, or indeed teaching or any caring activity?

With figures showing that the fastest growing sector of the economy in the past 25 years is head office activity and management consultancy, the junior doctors' strike is a timely reminder that we can, as a society, choose what we value, and manage the economy accordingly.

At present we are stuck in a Thatcher era mindset, a perverse world of market economics in which caring is a cost that has to be paid for by creating wealth in some other way. We are told that financial services, management consultancy, estate agency, etc., create wealth, which we can then spend on the cost of keeping ourselves healthy.

In fact, the reverse is the case. Those transactional activities are the costs of running the economy. They create no new wealth, but merely channel existing wealth in certain directions (generally upwards). Doctoring, on the other hand, does create new wealth. It makes something (wellness) that was previously missing. As such it is not a cost, but a benefit.

Imposing a new contract is never going to fix this. We need a new economic model that directs energy and resources away from wasteful transactional activity towards the things that we care about. It won't come quickly, but when it does this doctors' strike may stand out as a significant marker on the way.


  1. Junior doctors should be given the due rights as they work really hard to keep the health system of the UK running. The GMC appraisal has added up to their already existing burden of regulations.


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