Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Junior doctor protest: thousands gather outside parliament to campaign against NHS contract changes

         Protest: junior doctors gathered in central London Hannah Al-Othman

Thousands of junior doctors have gathered outside the Houses of Parliament this afternoon to protest against changes to NHS contracts..

Doctors have also threatened to strike over the Government’s plans, which are likely to reduce pay rates for working evenings and weekends.

The proposals will see a change to the definition of anti-social hours, which will mean Saturdays and evening shifts on weekdays will be classed as normal working hours.

Today's march is the most high-profile public demonstration by doctors yet, and follows a previous rally outside Downing Street last month.

Protest organiser Anna Warrington, a 32-year-old junior doctor who works in north west London, told the Standard there was overwhelming support from the medical profession to fight the government's proposals, saying: "There's an unbelievable groundswell of support from across the board."

As well as the doctors who are marching today, a thousand placards bear the names of doctors who are currently on shift, and some of the protesters are carrying white balloons to represent the lost lives of junior doctors, many of whom have died through suicide or road traffic accidents caused by 

                                  Gathering: protesters in Trafalgar Square

Dr Waddington told the Standard: "This contract removes the financial penalty that is put on hospitals if doctors work more than 48 hours week. 

"It is very probable that hospitals will make us work more than 48 hours a week - if junior doctors are made to be working more hours that's unsafe.

"It's going back to the bad old days of hundred hour weeks when doctors just can't work safely."
Dr Waddington said doctors would also suffer a pay cut of between 15 and 30 per cent.

She said: "It would be impossible for me to carry on training here in London, I would have to leave London.

"I thought for a little while about leaving the country, but I thought I'd stick it out and fight.
"The pay cut would be 50 per cent of my extra pay, that represents £8000, I earn about £40,000 so that's about 15 per cent of my pay gone."

She said that doctors are typically juniors for around 12 to 14 years after they graduate.

"They've got mortagages, families," she said. "No normal person can take an overnight pay cut like that." 

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “We have given the BMA Junior Doctors’ Committee four cast-iron assurances to encourage them to come back to the table and negotiate on a new contract that’s fairer for doctors and safer for patients. 

“Firstly, this is not a cost cutting exercise: we are not seeking to save any money from the paybill. Second, the proposal will improve patient safety by better supporting a seven-day NHS. 

"Third, this contract will not impose longer hours for junior doctors and finally, we will ensure that the great majority of junior doctors are at least as well paid as they would be now. We urge the BMA to come back to the table to work out the best deal for its members."

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