Thousands of junior doctors marched in London and Bristol at the weekend to voice their frustration with the Government's approach to a new contract for trainees.
Junior and senior doctors, other health professionals and the public took to the streets on Saturday to call for the Government to drop its plans to impose a new junior contract.
Despite recent weeks of negotiation with the BMA, ministers are still refusing to recognise Saturday working as unsocial hours.
The demonstration took place four days before junior doctors are set to take part in 24 hours of industrial action on Wednesday during which they will only provide emergency care.
'Not fair and not safe'
Salisbury specialty trainee 6 in obs and gynae Janet Berry attended the London demonstration with her husband Vitali Goriainov — himself an ST4 in trauma and orthopaedics — and their two children.
Dr Berry said there had been a lot of spin regarding the reasons behind the frustration felt by junior doctors, and said it was time that health secretary Jeremy Hunt accepted that his plans for a ‘seven-day NHS’ did not add up.
She said: ‘We’re here today because we very strongly feel that the contract proposals are not fair and not safe.
‘We think Mr Hunt needs to appreciate that hospitals are already staffed 24/7 for emergency care, and his efforts to promote seven-day working do not take into account the realities of the NHS we work in.’
Peterborough consultant paediatrician Katharine Mcdevitt was at the London demonstration to show support for her junior colleagues, warning that the Government’s proposed contract was penalising young doctors.
She said: ‘This contract is not safe; it’s going to remove the safeguards that prevent them [junior doctors] working dangerously long hours. It’s going to give them a pay cut — pay protection for a few years means nothing.
‘I have gaps on every single one of my rotas, I cannot fill them because there aren’t enough junior doctors in this country.
‘I believe that we need more junior doctors not fewer, we need to pay them more, we need to respect them and we need to train them.’
'Demoralised and horrified'
The day following the demonstrations saw the health secretary appear on the Andrew Marr Show on BBC1, where Mr Hunt again attacked the BMA saying it had misled junior doctors and distorted his words regarding a potential new contract.
However, Mr Marr responded by stating that many junior doctors were choosing not to work in the NHS because they felt so demoralised and horrified by the pressures being placed on them and the health service.
He said: ‘The big picture is … that they [junior doctors] are still absolutely furious with you. 98 per cent of these highly educated, hardworking people have voted to strike. It can’t be everyone else’s fault but yours surely?’
Commenting after the programme, BMA junior doctors committee chair Johann Malawana said: 'Junior doctors already work around the clock, seven days a week and they do so under their existing contract.
'If the Government wants more seven-day services then, quite simply, they need more doctors, nurses and diagnostic staff, and the extra investment needed to deliver it.
'Rather than addressing these issues, Mr Hunt is instead ploughing ahead with proposals that are unfair and could see many junior doctors voting with their feet.'
Dr Malawana added: 'This action is wholly avoidable but Mr Hunt's shambolic mishandling of this situation means he risks alientaing a generation of junior doctors and undermining the delivery of future patient care, which is why 98 per cent of those junior doctors who voted, supported taking industrial action.'
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