Junior doctors’ contracts: not fair, not safe

Patient safety will be jeopardised by new contracts for junior doctors, argues Sophie W, a medical student, London. That’s why she will be demonstrating tomorrow (28 September) outside Methodist Central Hall in London.

Placards made in preparation for tomorrow's protest (Photo Jennie Watson via Facebook)

Placards made in preparation for tomorrow’s protest (Photo Jennie Watson via Facebook)

Junior doctors are to be balloted on industrial action, almost a year on from when union representatives walked out of contract negotiations with the government committee in charge of setting NHS pay, NHS Employers.

This has finally come to a head after an independent review body sided with NHS Employers, without addressing the concerns of the British Medical Association, the union representing the doctors involved.

The changes will see:

  • Lengthening of the normal working day from 7 pm to 10 pm, Monday to Saturday.
  • Reduced compensation for anti-social hours worked.
  • Replacement of annual pay progression to hours-worked pay progression, making it harder to get a promotion if doctors work part time work or take maternity leave, and lengthening the time between promotions.
  • No up-front assurances on addressing pay gaps between competitive and less competitive jobs, as exists at the moment.
  • An increase in the number of night shifts worked per week.
  • No allocated breaks within shifts or rest time between night shifts and day shifts.

The changes are part of a NHS wide scheme to make hospital and local health care a “7/7 service”, without investing any more money.

Working in a hospital at 9 pm on a Saturday is fundamentally different to 10 am on a Tuesday. There aren’t the resources and staff available to make all the right decisions about patients at the weekend. Pretending this isn’t the case is dangerous.

The changes will make hospitals less safe. Tired doctors are more likely to make mistakes.

The changes will make junior doctors’ morale even lower than it already is. There is real concern that young doctors will leave the UK to work in other countries. Alongside this, there is also the fear that private healthcare companies will be able to offer more sociable contracts, and entice doctors out of the system that trained them.

The new contracts will reduce gender equality. Annual pay progression allowed doctors to work part time, to plan child care, and to undertake other research work without seeing their promotion opportunities changes. Women Doctors’ groups have highlighted how regressive these changes are, but the NHS Employers said this was “reasonably necessary to achieve business objectives”.

The NHS Employers may be driven by business objectives; junior doctors and medical students put the safety of their patients first. That’s why they’ll be demonstrating outside the NHS Employers’ meeting tomorrow (28 September).

This meeting has symbolic significance: since the BMA walked out on negotiations, NHS Employers are using large meetings with junior doctors and medical students as a sham form of consultation.

This move aims at undermining the union. We need coordinated action, on the ground in medical schools and hospitals, to defy these contracts.

Join the demonstration tomorrow, 18.30, Methodist Central Hall Westminster

1 Storey’s Gate, Westminster., SW1H 9NH London, United Kingdom.

#notfairnotsafe, #NHSEmeeting, #JuniorDoctorsContract

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