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I know many junior doctors, medical students, consultants and members of junior doctors' families have been writing to their MPs to highlight their concern and anger over the junior doctors contract dispute. It is important that we make our voices heard by MPs and ask them to put pressure on the Government to rethink their position.
If you haven’t already, please do write — you can use the BMA tool to help you send a personalised message to your MP here.
Many of you have been sharing the responses you have received with the BMA.
I’d like to say that I am surprised at the quality of some of these responses, but unfortunately I am not. Alongside the misinformation are embarrassing errors and conflation of issues.
One letter I have seen begins by referring to the stress of cancer diagnosis — despite the doctor not referencing cancer diagnosis and treatment in their letter.
It goes on to talk about investment in cancer care — essential progress in this area — but entirely unrelated to the issues that junior doctors are facing and raising with their MPs.
Another MP's letter says that ‘the current contract incentivises long, unsafe hours’. I am sure that you — like me — have no idea what is actually being referred to in this. Again, it shows the obvious misinformation that is being spread to MPs.
While most juniors would accept that the current contract is not perfect, the disincentives for employers to allow junior doctors to work excessively long, dangerous hours are in the banding system.
What is now being proposed does not provide such safeguards for patients and doctors.
You may have seen the letter that health minister Ben Gummer has sent to MPs.
It says: ‘We want to remove the opt-out from weekend, evening and night working for newly qualified hospital doctors…’
I checked my contract for this clause. Could I really have opted out of doing weekends and evenings but yet have been blindly doing them, thinking I had no option?
It is disappointing that Jeremy Hunt and his ministers continue to mislead MPs and the public on the proposals.
I can only hope that this is simply a matter of ministers being poorly briefed on their policy areas. The alternative is a deliberate misrepresentation of the facts.
You have been asking what you can do when you receive a letter full of errors and misleading information.
First, write back to your MP and highlight their mistakes. Where they have said something and provided no evidence for it, challenge them on it.
If your letter says that 'the current contract incentivises long, unsafe hours’, ask if they can explain how it does so and perhaps whether they have any understanding of the banding system that is part of the current contract.
Tell them about the reality — it’s important that MPs are fully informed by doctors in a constructive way and that we are seen as the professionals we are.
Despite the Government's attempt to misrepresent the position of doctors, we cannot allow this to affect the professional way that we communicate with parliamentarians.
Ultimately, we need them onside and willing to put pressure on the secretary of state to change his position.
Second, you need to share the letter.
Use social media. Does your MP use Twitter? If so, make sure you tag their Twitter handle. It is important to do this as it shines a light on the misinformation being propagated and allows pressure to be applied on parliamentarians to check their facts and not believe that misinformation.
Third, you could send the letter to your local paper.
Not everyone uses social media, so they might not see your posts.
Local newspapers have been very supportive of junior doctors in this dispute and so will probably be interested in learning what is going on. This also adds to the pressure on parliamentarians to engage with this topic.
Let’s keep up the pressure, let’s challenge these errors, and let's ensure that MPs and members of the public are not being misled on these contract proposals.
Johann Malawana is chair of the BMA junior doctors committee
More information about the junior doctors' contract
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