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Over 70,000 say junior doctors should strike over new contract

Petition calls for BMA to support strike action

Jo Carlowe

Friday, 25 September 2015

A petition calling on the British Medical Association to support a strike for junior doctors has attracted over 70,000 signatures. 

The petition, currently at 77,404 signatures with an aim of reaching 150,000, has been started by recently qualified doctor Dr Matthew Egan and focuses on the new contract that is due to come into force in August 2016.

Dr Egan states: “As a recently qualified doctor, I am deeply concerned with the new contract for trainee doctors being imposed on us by the government.

“This new contract increases doctors 'normal' working hours from 7am to 7pm Monday to Friday to 7am to 10pm Monday to Saturday. But the new 'normal' working hours the government has suggested would also see doctors pay cut by an average of 30%. Just imagine that situation, where your pay has increased at a rate below inflation for the last 5 years (effectively a pay cut for 5 years in a row) and now you’re facing another 30% wiped from your earnings.”

The petition continues: “We leave medical school having studied for 5-6 years, with £60,000 - £100,000 of debt. We pay ridiculous amounts in fees and annual memberships each year (GMC membership £400, online portfolios £200, thousands for exams, thousands for compulsory courses to allow us to continue our careers, all of which to start on a salary of £22,636, with further cuts proposed). We are not greedy; we just want to be treated fairly. We are not special, but we are highly trained workers, and we are already paid less than tube drivers, and managers of fast-food restaurants to name a few.

“Does this sound like an attractive career?”

The petition continues by stating that as many post-graduate students are in their mid-20s some have families to support. It also notes that most junior doctors work more hours than they are contracted for “free” – “because we feel guilty for taking a lunch break, or we stay late to care for sick patients”.

It continues: “We miss family weddings, Christmas' and other important events because people don't just get sick during normal hours, and this is accepted.”

The petition ends by warning that the NHS “is already on thin ice” and “this will force more doctors to leave their careers, or move abroad.” 

It ends: “This is why we feel forced to strike. Please sign to show your support, and show the BMA we need industrial action.”

While the BMA has not answered to this call for action, it has spoken out against the new contract. The BMA junior doctors committee has stated that it is “firmly opposed to the imposition of a new contract for juniors and is developing plans to fight such a move by the Department of Health in England”.

Speaking recently, JDC co-chair Andrew Collier said: “We remain committed to agreeing to a contract that protects against junior doctors routinely working long hours, delivers a fair system of pay, values the vital role of training and does not disadvantage those in flexible working.

“We have not received adequate assurance from the Government that it is committed to achieving these goals. We urge the Government not to impose a contract that is unsafe and unfair. We will resist a contract that is bad for patients, bad for junior doctors and bad for the NHS.”

NHS Employers is hosting regional meetings next week to explain what the new contract will mean for doctors in training. The JDC has urged “as many juniors as possible” to attend these events to “make their voices heard”. 

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