Thousands of disgruntled doctors marched through the streets of London yesterday evening to protest government plans to introduce controversial new contracts.
Protesters helped to close off Whitehall near Downing Street to demonstrate against the Department of Health’s proposals but, oddly, you may not have read about it in the press this morning.
Quite why the major protest has been ignored in certain sections of the media is something of a concern, considering that critics say the planned NHS contract changes would include pay cuts of up to 30 per cent with overtime done away with, while working hours for doctors would switch to 7am to 10pm Monday to Saturday.
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And many of those taking part in the protest said they fear the proposed plans would lead to unsafe working conditions in which patients could be harmed and lives put at risk.
Speaking to the Evening Standard, Dr Janis Burns said:
I’m protesting because I’m distraught at the changes that are being proposed and how these will impact on staff morale and patient safety across the NHS. Removing mandatory safeguards and any financial disincentive that protects junior doctors from working unsafe hours will lead to tired and overworked doctors. When doctors are tired we make mistakes, and mistakes harm patients.
The assembled protesters took aim at Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt in particular, although many of the placards referenced David Cameron and #piggate, as well as fears that the new government proposals will bring the NHS one step closer to privatisation.
The Department of Health insists junior doctors’ current contracts are “outdated and unfair”, claiming new plans would see them paid more and create more training opportunities for young doctors.
However, the British Medical Association is furious with the idea and has announced plans to ballot junior doctors on strike action over the proposals.
Another junior doctors protest against the government plans is expected in Manchester, outside the Midland Hotel, this evening.