A doctor at St George’s Hospital in Tooting has spoken out after health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced he would impose the controversial junior doctor contract today despite nationwide strikes.
The junior doctor contract has been fiercely fought by medical staff, with two 24-hour strikes against the measures which would see increased hours without a corresponding pay increase, have been condemned as ‘dangerous and unsafe’.
The doctor, who has been practicing for 12 years and wishes to remain anonymous, implored the health secretary to ‘listen to doctors rather than demonising them as militant troublemakers’.
They said: “I’ve dedicated my life to the NHS and will do everything I can to protect it. However you can only push very loyal people so far. This could represent the end of the NHS.
“Imposition of a contract isn’t conducive to meaningful negotiations. We all want to improve the seven day emergency service we already have.
“Nowhere in the world has a truly seven-day elective service and we certainly don’t have the resources to implement this now and this isn’t what the public want.”
Mr Hunt relied on the weekend increase in mortality rates to bolster the argument for forcing junior doctors to extend their hours, but was rebuffed by shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander who said there was ‘absolutely no evidence’ behind his claim.
Ms Alexander said: “This is the biggest gamble with patient safety this house has ever seen, he failed to win the trust of the very people who keep hospitals running and has failed to convince the public.”
All non-consultant roles are ‘junior doctors’ as from graduation with a medical degree it can take a further eight or nine years of specialised practice to reach the level of consultant.
The St George’s Hospital doctor said the junior doctor contract is ‘unsafe’.
They said: “Lack of hours safeguarding means tired doctors and we know that leads to mistakes. If imposed very significant numbers of doctors would go elsewhere or leave the profession altogether – worsening an already understaffed service.”
Mr Hunt repeatedly made reference to staff morale in his speech to commons today, indicating that the current discontentment felt by NHS doctors would be improved by better patient care.
“I worry that I’ll be working with a demoralised workforce who are at the end of their collective tether, working hours that are unsafe for patients,” said the doctor, who has previously worked for the London Air Ambulance.
“I personally don’t want to upsticks and move elsewhere. Though many will. I wouldn’t participate in research or be able to prolong my training in any way for fear of financial penalties.”
They called for a contract to be reviewed, to build a new contract that won’t ‘penalise the hardest working doctors but will encourage retention and recruitment of staff within the NHS’.
They said: “The negotiations have led to complete mistrust between doctors and be government and that doctors need a contract which is the result of meaningful and truly two-way negotiation and the current contract is not that in any way.
“A fresh start would be the best way to draw up a contract that is safe for patients and fair for doctors.”
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