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Failure to resolve juniors’ contract ‘will destabilise NHS’

RCGP stays firm in wholehearted support for juniors and calls for fresh negotiations

Louise Prime

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Continuing disagreement over the new contract for junior doctors threatens to destabilise the NHS and could jeopardise patient care, the Royal College of General Practitioners has warned. College chair Dr Maureen Baker told the health secretary that although the RCGP has no direct influence in the contract negotiations, it remains firm in its support for juniors. And she again raised College concerns that general practice is now acknowledged, even by the government, to be a shortage speciality.

Dr Baker told Jeremy Hunt that it was vital for NHS staff and patients that contract talks should start afresh. She said: “It was a useful meeting in which I had the opportunity to reiterate to Mr Hunt that the RCGP supports our junior doctors wholeheartedly – and how crucial it is to reach a speedy resolution. I urged the secretary of state to call in the independent negotiators and abandon any pre-conditions to the contract so that talks can re-start, in the best interests of our doctors and our patients.”

Although the RCGP is not directly involved in negotiations over the junior doctor contract, as this remit falls to the BMA, Dr Baker emphasised that the College fully supports juniors – and she warned him of the serious consequences of failure to resolve the situation. She said: “As the UK’s largest medical Royal College representing over 50,000 family doctors, we are extremely concerned that the ongoing disagreement between the Government and junior doctors threatens to destabilise the NHS and poses a risk to safe patient care.

“It has badly hit morale across the NHS at a time when we should all be working together to prevent our health service from tipping over the edge, particularly as we head towards what will be a very difficult winter for our general practices and hospitals.

“Junior doctors choose medical training because they want to care for patients and contribute to the NHS. They should be allowed to do this without fear for their own financial futures and the safety of generations of patients who will be reliant on them.”

She went on to point out that reports of intimidation of the College, over its comments on the junior doctor contract negotiations, were unfounded. She said: “We have received no threats whatsoever over the future of our Royal charter and the issue did not come up.”

Dr Baker took the opportunity to remind the health secretary of the College’s longstanding and increasing concerns over the severe recruitment shortage facing general practices across the UK, with an additional 5,000 GPs needed over course of this Parliament alone. She said: “We also discussed GP recruitment and the Government’s acknowledgement that general practice is now a shortage specialty.”

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