Junior doctor Alex Ashman explains why you shouldn’t listen to the Daily Mail.
Doctors aren’t in it for the money. Remember that they chose this career over many other options. If money was a big deal, they’d have skipped medical school and gone to work for Deloitte. Instead, they chose to work weekends and nights, getting shouted at and getting covered in other peoples’ bodily fluids. So please let’s do away with the Daily Mail conspiracy theory that doctors are scheming to bring down the NHS, like a bunch of crackpot Bond villains. They are in fact real people with children to feed and mortgages to pay.
Here are the real reasons why junior doctors are fighting against the new contract:
It Removes All The Safeguards
The new contract does away with ‘banding’, whereby hospitals have to pay junior doctors a higher rate if they are forced to work unsafe 80-hour weeks. Banding was a great innovation and successfully brought in a 48 hour week as required by the European Working Time Directive. Under the new contract, doctors will be left with no protection from dangerous long hours, thus putting patients at risk.
It Extends Normal Working Hours
The new contract extends so-called ‘normal’ hours to include late evenings and Saturdays, treating 9pm on a Saturday evening as being the same as 9am on a Tuesday morning. This can only be an attempt to have doctors work more hours, which is bad for patient safety.
It Punishes The Busiest Specialties
Junior doctors already working long hours in A&E, in GP surgeries, and in paediatrics will all suffer as a result of the new contract. These busy specialties are already struggling to recruit new doctors and will likely see an exodus of staff under the new contract. If this happens, the NHS will genuinely tip over the edge and experience a real ‘crisis’.
It Punishes Women and Academics
The new contract removes annual pay progression, which is awarded based on level of experience. This is the only annual pay increase doctors get, as their baseline salaries usually get 0% increases each year. Thanks to the removal of annual pay progression pregnant women, academics, and doctors who work less-than-full-time (e.g. parents who also work) will receive less pay.
It’s Being Forced Through By The Government
The contract negotiations between the government and the BMA doctors’ union were essentially a sham. The government came to the table with a list of demands, unwilling to haggle. Naturally, the BMA walked out.
Hunt Lied About Weekend Deaths
Jeremy Hunt’s line, about increased weekend deaths being due to doctors not working weekends, is a lie in more than one way. Firstly, junior doctors already provide a 24/7 service for the NHS. Secondly, the authors of the scientific paper used by Hunt have stated that any attempt to link weekend deaths with junior doctors’ working patterns would be ‘rash and misleading’.
Hunt Lied About The 11% Pay Rise
With the removal of ‘banding’ payments, junior doctors stand to lose around 30% of their pay package. Jeremy Hunt has offered an 11% increase in basic pay to compensate for this. Not only is this not a ‘pay rise’, but the 11% figure doesn’t relate to anything in the actual contract details, and thus seems to be a ‘sound bite’ used by Hunt in an attempt to discredit doctors.