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Junior doctor contract protest draws 20,000-strong crowd

junior doctor protest 3x2

Some 20,000 doctors and members of the public marched through London on Saturday afternoon to protest against the Government’s proposed junior doctor contract changes.

Doctors, lawyers and political leaders gave speeches in support of junior doctors, including shadow health Secretary Heidi Alexander, 92-year-old NHS activist Harry Leslie Smith and BMA Junior Doctors Committee chair Dr Johann Malawana.

The proposed changes, which would come into effect next August, would extend junior doctors’ plain time hours, so that instead of normal pay being given for hours worked Monday to Friday 7am to 7pm with hours outside of that paid 20-50% extra, plain time would last until 10pm and include Saturdays.

It would also scrap the GP trainee supplement and replace it with a ‘pay premium’ recognising it as a shortage specialty.

Marching along Pall Mall and Whitehall, the protesters finally gathered outside Parliament to express their views.

Addressing the health secretary, Dr Malawana said: ’Jeremy Hunt, I have said to you again and again, stop attacking us. What kind of society devalues NHS staff? What kind of society devalues the very staff that deliver frontline services at 2 o’clock in the morning on a Sunday night, and do it because they care about the patients in front of them.’

Ms Alexander said in her speech: ’I’ve come here today, be under no illusion, to send a clear and strong message to David Cameron and Jeremy Hunt, that junior doctors should be paid fairly for the work that they do. I hear you when you say, it might be junior doctor contracts today, but what is it tomorrow?’

Junior doctors also rallied in Belfast over the weekend amid fears that the devolved administration will implement the changes proposed for England.

According to the BMA, propositions do away with contractual safeguards, including a 30-minute break for every four hours worked. Instead, the new contract entitles doctors to one 20-minute break in a shift of up to 11-hours.

The BMA has refused to re-enter negotiations on the contract after a plea from health secretary Jeremy Hunt last week, in which he gave a ‘cast-iron’ guarantee that pay would not fall and suggested he may be open to concessions on Saturday plain time hours.

Mr Hunt had met with Dr Malawana after learning that the BMA is planning to ballot junior doctors on industrial action.

Junior doctors have until 23 October to update their details with the BMA to ensure they can take part in the ballot.

Speaking to Pulse at Saturday’s protest, BMA GP trainee subcommittee chair Dr Donna Tooth said: ’There are people saying that with the removal of the training supplement, they will no longer be able to afford to train to be a GP.

’There have been some assurances from the government that GP trainees’ pay won’t be affected, however until I see those assurances written down, rock-solid assurances, I can’t reassure my committee and the membership that I represent, that the future of general practice and training is secure and that our salary will be safe.’

Mr Hunt has said he will impose the contract if the BMA does not agree to changes but the Scottish and Welsh Governments have no plans to introduce it. Amid political instability, which included most ministers resigning their posts, the Northern Irish Government has not announced a decision yet.

The marches followed an earlier protest on 28 September, when about 5,000 junior doctors gathered outside Westminster. Doctors also protested on the streets of Manchester during the Conservative Party Conference earlier this month.


Readers' comments (23)

  • Good luck guys - i'm ashamed that our profession could not do more to support you.

    I'm resigning all NHS work and am going to work as a full time locum at maximum cost to the state in support. Market forces work both ways Mr Cameron.

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  • Vinci Ho

    Salute to guys
    The young ones always make the history by standing up to front in any revolution . We , the older ones, are often hesitant and carrying baggages .
    The future of NHS are in the hands of you guys
    Good luck

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  • Fight the fight! I did years ago and we got the hours cut- although it took years before it was implimented. But we won the arguement. The difference this time is that the number of juniors protesting are far far greater than the comparative hamdful previously.
    So this time your voice should be even stronger.
    Also this time all the levels of doctors are behind you so you will not be descriminated against in the future, more congratulated!

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  • Only 4 more years of Tory Government to fight against....

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  • Vinci Ho

    FOV220,000 virus has transformed him into a super villain , Agent Hunt is officially blaming BMA junior doctors committee misleading the public and the contract is actually supposed to 'reduce' their working hours.
    Spinning will meet anti-spinning.
    Come on , guys!

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  • There has been work done in the past on the effects of fatigue on performance (I remember a paper in the late 1960s/early 70s on the performance of junior doctors interpreting ECGs) among doctors as well as other professions/jobs.
    Details on the proposed new contract seem hard to come by, but if - as this article says - the proposal is to reduce breaks in long shifts down to 20 minutes in 11 hours, can this really contribute to patient safety? (I'm not sure that such long shifts are safe in the first place: I trained under the 1-in-2 system - and that definitely was not safe! and the effects were cumulative over the weeks and months...
    Would it help to point out to Jeremy Hunt - and anyone else expecting to be able to afford private healthcare when they need it - that imposing this extensive - and unclear - new contract on junior doctors is likely not only to cause severe "unexpected consequences" on the NHS now and in the future, but also to destroy the entire system for post-graduate medical training - so no more properly trained private doctors either? and, if the NHS is not functioning, nowhere to transfer patients when they develop complications the private sector is unable or unwilling to handle?

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  • I don't think Hunt imagines he will still be in charge/dominating/destroying the NHS by then and he can always jet off abroad if there are doctor shortages in the UK. So he does not have much to lose unfortunately.

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  • Corbyn is right this lot and their political class(medical and non medical) are undertaking wanton vandalism on the health system in this country.If we are not careful their will be nothing worth saving once they have finished.

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  • A whiff of fresh air. Go on colleagues and stir up the old guard who've thrown in the towel.

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  • And where was the press coverage? Makes one think that the government have some sway over such matters.....but that would be unthinkable?

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