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‘Almost half’ of junior doctors ‘will quit the NHS’ if contract is imposed

Exclusive Almost half of junior doctors plan to quit the NHS if health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s threatened contract imposition goes ahead, a survey has found.

The survey, launched by a GP trainee and attracting thousands of responses, was designed to gauge the opinions from doctors and medical students about the junior doctor contract row.

The GPC also reacted to findings, branding them ‘very worrying’ and with ’potentially serious ramifications’.

Out of 4,500 replies via in April, 46% of eligible respondents said they would leave the NHS this summer if the contract goes ahead, with 28% saying they would work abroad in countries like Australia and New Zealand; 15% pledging to leave medicine and change career and 3% vowing to leave to work in private healthcare.

Another 46% said they would stay on, whilst the remainder are due to complete training this summer so the contract will not affect them.

Some of the main reasons respondents gave for being against the new contract included it being discriminatory against women (91%); affecting patient safety (89%); pushing doctors to leave the profession/country, leading to a reduced workforce (88%) and the contract not being safe for doctors (87%).

In another finding, less than half (48%) of eligible junior doctors have applied for specialist core training (CT) or specialist registrar (SPR) training this August with 20% specifically citing the proposed new contract as their reason for not applying. Some 10% are planning to move abroad, 21% plan to take a year out of training and 2% say they are leaving medicine altogether.

The survey also found that 99.5% of junior doctors, consultants, GPs and medical students do not agree with the current imposition of the new contract while a staggering 96% think that Mr Hunt should resign.

Dr Vimalendran Ratheesh, who designed and conducted the survey, is a GP registrar at Churchwood Medical Practice in St Leonards, East Sussex.

Dr Ratheesh told Pulse that the survey’s results have serious implications for the NHS’s workforce and plans for seven-day access, given the number of junior doctors insisting they will leave medicine or move abroad.

‘I think the main headline is that 46% of junior doctors will leave this summer if the contract goes through. Quite simply, if it does, we will not be able to sustain the NHS as the workforce will continue to diminish as doctors move abroad or quit medicine completely.’

GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘These are very worrying statistics because doctors in training, unlike established doctors who might have mortgages and children in schools etc, are making career decisions about where to work. Our own figures at the BMA showed that one in five GPs are planning to work abroad.’

Deputy GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey said the findings had ’potentially very serious ramifications’, adding: ’These figures are no surprise and in many cases this is what GPs are doing already – making applications to work abroad.’

The news follows a Pulse survey which showed that nine in ten GPs think Mr Hunt should step down as health secretary or be removed from his post.

The survey was open to all types of doctors but when results were analysed they were broken down by doctor type.

What is the latest on the junior doctor row?

Junior doctor and Government negotiators returned to the table for five days’ of talks last week but no deal was reached.

An extra three days’ of dicussions this week – until the end of Wednesday – represent a ‘final opportunity to find an agreement’, Acas has said.

While talks continue, the Government has agreed not to impose the junior doctor contract and the BMA has agreed not to stage further industrial action, following the all-out strikes in April and walkouts earlier in the year.

Two legal cases, brought by the BMA and a group of junior doctors against the imposition, under the banner Justice for Health, are pending court review and will be heard 8-10 June.