Leeds sees unprecedented support against “high-risk to patients” working hours proposed by government
Government proposals to cut pay for junior doctors by up to 30% and force them to work even more antisocial shifts, has faced a momentous backlash from the medical profession from across the country.
In order to fight to protect patient safety in Yorkshire, currently under threat from the government’s new Junior Doctor contract, more than 3000 local doctors, patient groups, medical students and allied healthcare professionals gathered in Victoria Square, Leeds to raise their voices in protest Wednesday 28th October.
The new contract, which the government plans to impose next summer, is widely regarded to pose a high risk to patient safety and to the sustainability of the NHS, and has wide ranging implications for Yorkshire and the Humber.
- There are approximately 6,000 junior doctors working across Yorkshire and Humber. This encompasses doctors across a whole decade of training, in hospitals and GP practices – from those who qualified this summer after 5 or 6 years at medical school, right through to those who are 1 day off being a hospital or GP consultant.
- The proposals remove the current safeguards that would lead to doctors working excessive, unsafe hours. Exhausted doctors make mistakes.
- The introduction of this contract will lead to a mass exodus from the profession. Doctors in acute specialties may be taking up to a 30% pay cut under the new proposals. A recent poll of 6,000 junior doctors revealed that only 24% would stay in their job if the contract was imposed, with many looking to move abroad or change career.
Many junior doctors were able to attend the event because their consultants came into the hospitals to cover their work for free enabling them to have their voice heard. This show of solidarity from consultants and GPs was profoundly appreciated by the doctors in attendance.
Dr Phil Atkinson, one of the grass roots team organising the event said: “When I go to work I do everything in my power to ensure that patients receive the best possible standards of care, as do my colleagues.
“It is this passion that explains why thousands of doctors assembled in Leeds city centre to protest a contract they see as unsafe for their patients, unfair on junior doctors and a threat to the future of the NHS.”
Dr Amrita Jesurasa said: “This is an unprecedented demonstration by doctors, students and allied health professionals in Yorkshire showing the strength of feeling regarding the Government’s plans to impose changes to junior doctor contracts.
“The protest coincided with a parliamentary debate on the contract reforms during which the Government stance failed to reassure the medical profession that the proposed changes remain anything other than unfair to doctors and unsafe for patients, a feeling echoed loudly by those protesting in Leeds.
“In fact, the Health Secretary’s rhetoric is inconsistent and causing further confusion and alarm, rather than providing clarity or reassurance that he is listening to concerns.”
Dr Lauren Robson a junior doctor living in Yorkshire said “The sheer number of junior doctors that came together last night really demonstrates the strength of feeling, but we were also overwhelmed by the support from consultants and GP’s, many of whom covered for their juniors so that they could attend the rally – as well as our allied health professionals and the general public. We are coming together to defend this contract and to defend our NHS.”
She went on to say “The speech from Harry Leslie Smith about life before the NHS, detailing the death of his sister from TB as well as descriptions of people’s screams of pain because people couldn’t afford morphine to ease the pain of death was shocking and moving. It painted a picture of life before healthcare that was free at the point of care that was truly horrifying. We do not want to go back to those days.”
Dr Kelly McKenzie, another organiser, said “A truly inspirational night. Yorkshire’s Junior doctors, medical students, allied health professionals and patients demonstrated last night that they are willing to fight hard against the imposition of this contract in order to protect the safety of patients, the welfare of doctors, and ultimately the future of the NHS. It was a privilege to be part of such an amazing event.”
Dr John Morgan “Outstanding protest in Leeds by the Yorkshire junior doctors. The passion and support shown by the speakers for the junior doctors’ contract issues was telling. Lots DOH myths debunked. Momentum on this issue continues to build.”
Dr Will Sapwell “The protest showed that this isn’t just an issue for junior doctors; the support from nurses, allied health professionals was inspirational. But it was the support of patients on the night that moved me most”
The health secretary Jeremy Hunt in the meanwhile has criticised the British Medical Association (BMA) for creating “unnecessary anger” amongst medics over the controversial renegotiation of junior doctor contracts.