Junior doctors pledge to continue action unless Hunt improves offerBMJ 2015; 351 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h5212 (Published 29 September 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h5212
England’s junior doctors remained defiant this week over proposed changes to their contract despite the offer of a meeting from the health secretary on Monday.
Jeremy Hunt offered to talk to the BMA junior doctors’ leader, Johann Malawana, after 13 royal medical colleges weighed into the controversy on behalf of junior doctors.1 But his offer failed to prevent a protest by junior doctors in London on Monday 28 September. Hundreds of doctors marched to Downing Street to protest against the plan to impose the new contract on junior doctors in England next summer.
Doctors holding placards marched up Whitehall to Downing Street, blocking the pavement and road outside the Department of Health in the process.
Junior doctors are angry about the potential effect on patient safety, pay, and working hours of the plan to introduce a new NHS contract from August 2016 for junior doctors in England.2 3 The BMA is to ballot junior doctors across England about potential industrial action over the plans.4 Earlier this month medical royal colleges and faculties raised concerns about the potential effects of the proposed changes to the contract on the care of patients and the future of medicine in the United Kingdom.1
A protest had been planned for Monday outside a meeting between junior doctors and NHS Employers, the organisation that negotiates for the government over NHS staff contracts. But the meeting, and a series of 18 later similar events, was postponed after Hunt announced that he was prepared to meet the chair of the BMA’s Junior Doctors Committee.
Malawana has agreed to meet Hunt but said that the committee would be “continuing with our action unless the government themselves can give us the absolute assurances we seek on behalf of the doctors we represent.”
Janis Burns, a junior doctor in London, attended the protest, having used some of her annual leave to travel to the planned meeting. “The demonstration was a fantastic illustration of how deep the desire goes to protect our NHS,” she said. “The chants of ‘No ifs, no buts, no junior doctor cuts’ and ‘Where are you Jeremy? Where are you Jeremy?’ gave me goose bumps. I can’t help but feel that this is one almighty battle that healthcare professionals will win, and it will be a good starting point to win the war against privatisation of our NHS.”
Ben Dean, a junior doctor in Oxford, said that he had been “far from impressed” with the approach that NHS Employers had taken to junior doctors. “They have quite clearly tried to drive a wedge between doctors and their union, but ironically their actions have done the reverse and appear to have united junior doctors with the BMA.”
Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h5212
thebmj.com Briefing: Problems with the junior doctors’ contract—how did we get here? (BMJ 2015;351:h5183, doi:10.1136/bmj.h5183)