More Juniors Join Protest against Jeremy’s New Contract
Over the last few months, the junior doctor conflict has become a big part of the news. The junior doctors are objecting to a new contract that has been proposed in England. Many elements are changing in the contract and have angered the doctors - causing them to strike. Details have been tweaked as the dispute has gone on. The government claim they are intent on improving the range of services that are available over each seven day period. In trying to achieve their goal, they have changed the contract of the junior doctors to provide this service. Recently, the junior doctors have had "all out" strikes, the first being for 24 and the second for 48 hours which they are hoping will put pressure on the government to consider their point of view.
Junior doctors are qualified doctors who work under the supervision of consultants to provide care for patients. The junior doctors have a role to play in all aspects of the profession including training and education of other trainee doctors and students, regulation and workforce planning, as well as direct patient care. Trainee doctors currently have a starting salary of £22,636 - rising with experience to reach £30,000 within four years. Compared to other graduate jobs, junior doctors do not stand out as very well paid. According to High Fliers’ research, a company which specialises in student careers, almost a third of graduate programmes at Britain's leading employers now pay more than £35,000, meaning graduate doctors have a considerably smaller starting salary.
The contract that the government is now imposing on the doctors has been changed in several ways. At the moment, junior doctors are paid a standard wage for working during normal working hours, which are defined as 7am-7pm Monday to Friday. What most irritates the junior doctors is that, if Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, prevails, the standard time will be extended from 60 hours per week to 90 and stretch up to 10pm every night of the week apart from Sunday. Junior doctors say that by not being paid extra in future for working antisocial hours they will lose up to 30% of their salary.
Dr Rumina Hassan-Ali, a consultant paediatrician at Hillingdon Hospital, told us, “They want to somehow focus on making doctors work longer hours so that they can work over the whole week, not realizing that all doctors work every day of the week already and we provide emergency cover on Saturdays and Sundays.” The government have said that average pay will remain the same for junior doctors and that new safeguards will be put in place to prevent them working too many night shifts or weekends in a row.
Yesterday, on Wednesday, 8th March, the junior doctors walked out of the hospitals for 48 hours. Thousands of junior doctors marched, protesting and broadcasting their view to the world with banners and signs stating their belief that the new contract is dangerous to patients as, if the junior doctors are too tired, they cannot provide the best service. In the NHS, while the strikes are taking place, doctors will run an “emergency care-only model.” This means that they will not have any clinics or routine work during the day but they will provide emergency care to the patients. Dr Rumina Hassan-Ali also commented, “The strikes have made things harder because with no junior doctors we are just providing emergency care and it means we have to cancel or delay our normal routines. We have to cover for the junior doctors as well as doing our job in the NHS.”
Dr Kumail Versi, a junior doctor, has stated that the welfare of patients is not at risk due to strikes as when doctors are providing emergency care, everything will run normally.
At the moment, there are ongoing discussions with the BMA about changing consultants’ contracts. This would mean that consultants had to work at weekends for the same rate of pay that they earn for working Monday to Friday. Many consultants are worried that the end result will be very similar to that of the junior doctors.
In conclusion, the doctor’s strike is not a simple matter and both sides have valid arguments.
By Sahar and Julie