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GPs, consultants and public back striking juniors

Juniors are not a roadblock to a seven-day NHS, insist united doctors’ leaders

Louise Prime

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

GPs, consultants and the public are all strongly backing junior doctors this morning, as they have begun their 24-hour strike over the Government’s threat to impose a new contract. Doctors’ leaders accused the Government of intransigence and of making “bizarre and distracting” claims that junior doctors are blocking seven-day working, when they already work every day of the week.

Chair of the BMA’s GP committee, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, insisted this morning that GPs, consultants, staff and associates stand together in backing junior doctors. He, BMA consultants committee chair Dr Keith Brent and SAS committee chair Dr Amit Kochar, wrote a letter of support for juniors. They said that in the Government’s repeated refusal to address fundamental concerns about patient care and doctors’ working lives – with little regard for the impact of its proposals on morale and recruitment – it is “placing politics before reason, making the bizarre and distracting claim that junior doctors are a ‘road block’ to seven-day working, when they already work every day of the week”.

There have been widespread reports of the harm that the contract could cause to the NHS. The Independent earlier this week reported claims by BMA sources that Jeremy Hunt had vetoed a deal to end the junior doctor dispute that was supported by the NHS’ own negotiators, and followed this yesterday with a report on a large poll of junior doctors, that found that almost 90% of them would consider resigning from the NHS if the Government follows through on its threat to impose the new contract. And this morning, The Guardian reported on leaked NHS figures showing that the number of junior doctors applying to start training for key hospital-based specialities has dropped 8% in three years, to a new low.

The BMA’s committee chairs said in their letter to members: “In its intransigence over Saturday working, refusing to distinguish it from weekdays, the Government puts at grave risk the specialties already haemorrhaging doctors overseas. How can doctors support a contract where colleagues working some of the longest and most intense hours in the health service will be the most penalised? How will a further disincentive to join specialties already in crisis benefit patient care?”

They said they, as well as junior doctors, strongly regretted the disruption caused to patients by the strike. But they went on: “The damage which this contract would do to patient care and the NHS in the long-term would be profound.

“An attack on junior doctors is an attack on us all, and on the quality of care we provide. Their patients are our patients, and their values are ours.

“We are one profession and we stand together in support of junior doctors – the consultants, GPs and SAS doctors of the future.”

There appears to be a high level of public support for junior doctors’ industrial action, shown in the BMA’s Twitter feed. A video explaining the juniors’ point of view, posted on Facebook by James Rawson on Monday, has gone viral, with over 1.3 million views already. And an OnMedica snapshot poll answered by 129 OnMedica readers reveals that 89% said “yes” the question: “As a healthcare professional, do you support the junior doctors’ strike?”

However, NHS Employers continue to insist that the strike should never have happened. Its chief executive Danny Mortimer said: “It is extremely disappointing there will be industrial action. We have listened and worked hard to address the BMA’s concerns. We now need to see from the BMA the will to also compromise, with a focus on resolution – rather than strike action.

“Patients should not suffer over a dispute about pay. We will continue to want to talk with the BMA to agree a contract that is fair and safe for doctors and patients.”

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