160514 jr dr protest jeremy hunt

Only days after junior doctors refused to accept the lowering of standards in the English NHS that would allow Jeremy Hunt to go ahead with his pointless “seven-day-a-week health service”, he has announced he will impose it on them anyway.

Here’s his speech to the House of Commons today (July 6).

This move is guaranteed to send healthcare professionals running from England, reducing the quality of service even further than Hunt has already planned (and if he didn’t plan to reduce service quality, he’s a fool because that’s what his plan was always supposed to do).

What was it Neil Kinnock said about a Conservative government?

“Don’t get sick…”

In May, the Government and NHS employers reached an historic agreement with the British Medical Association on the new contract for junior doctors after more than three years of negotiations and several days of damaging strike action. That agreement was strongly endorsed as a good deal for junior doctors by the leader of the BMA’s junior doctors committee, Dr Johann Malawana, and was supported publicly by the vast majority of medical royal colleges. However, it was rejected yesterday in a ratification ballot: 58% voted against the contract, so, on the basis of a 68% turnout, around a third of serving junior doctors actively voted against the agreement.

It is worth outlining key elements of the agreement that was voted on. The agreement does indeed help the Government to deliver their seven-day NHS manifesto commitment, but it also does much more. It reduces the maximum hours junior doctors can be asked to work, introduces a new post in every trust to make sure the hours asked of junior doctors are safe, makes rostering more child and family-friendly, and helps women who take maternity leave to catch up with their peers. The president of the Royal College of Physicians, who had opposed our previous proposals, stated publicly:

“If I were a trainee doctor now, I would vote ‘yes’ in the junior doctor referendum.”

Unfortunately, because of the vote, we are now left in a no-man’s land, which, if it continues, can only damage the NHS.

An elected Government whose main aim is to improve the safety and quality of care for patients have come up against a union that has stirred up anger among its own members that it is now unable to pacify. I was not a fan of the tactics used by the BMA, but, to its credit, its leader, Johann Malawana, did, in the end, negotiate a deal and work hard to get support for it. Now that he has resigned, it is not clear whether anyone can deliver the support of BMA members for any negotiated settlement.

Protracted uncertainty precisely when we grapple with the enormous consequences of leaving the EU can only be damaging for those working in the NHS and for the patients who depend on it. Last night, Professor Dame Sue Bailey, president of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, said that the NHS and junior doctors needed to move on from this dispute and that if the Government proceed with the new contract it should be implemented in a phased way that allowed time to learn from any teething problems. After listening to this advice and carefully considering the equalities impact of the new contract, I have this morning decided that the only realistic way to end this impasse is to proceed with the phased introduction of the exact contract that was negotiated, agreed and supported by the BMA leadership.

Source: Junior Doctors Contract – Hansard Online

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