Rank-and-file junior doctors have warned Jeremy Hunt he must make further concessions on proposed new contracts to prevent them striking or taking other industrial action over pay and weekend working.
More than 2,000 medics and students have written to the health secretary saying his attempts to impose new terms and conditions on 53,000 NHS staff “remain unfair to doctors and unsafe to patients”.
Their reaction to Hunt’s attempt to defuse the anger of many junior doctors in England has become public before the British Medical Association (BMA), their trade union, officially responds to the government’s move.
But the warning shot fired by the self-styled The Junior Doctors indicates continuing grassroots opposition to the new contracts despite Hunt’s effort last Thursday to quell unrest.
Hunt indicated that he was prepared to reconsider his plan to reclassify working on Saturdays between 7am and 10pm as part of the normal working week for which doctors would only be paid at the standard rate.
He also promised that existing incentives for qualified young doctors to go into emergency medicine and general practice, where there are shortages, would continue.
By Sunday afternoon, the junior doctors’ letter, sent to Hunt on Saturday and a copy of which has been given to the Guardian, had been supported by 1,618 junior doctors, 193 consultants or GPs and 198 medical students, most members of the BMA.
The letter questions using complex data on higher mortality in hospitals at weekends to justify government policy behind the proposed contracts. It points out that Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS England’s medical director, is co-author of a BMJ article last month which says in a section interpreting the “weekend effect” in hospitals: “It is not possible to ascertain the extent to which these excess deaths may be preventable, to assume that they are avoidable would be rash and misleading.”
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