Thousands of junior doctors are marching in London again this weekend to protest against the proposed changes to their contracts by the UK government.
Thousands more NHS workers are also rallying in Belfast and Nottingham today, following marches last month in London and Manchester.
Their union, the British Medical Association, says the new government plans will lead to a drop in junior doctors’ salaries.
— Unite the Resistance (@resistunite) October 17, 2015
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, meanwhile, said he isn’t shocked that junior doctors are protesting.
Although if you think that’s some kind of admission of guilt from Hunt, think again. It was just an excuse to blame the unions, and he accused the BMA of misleading doctors.
This is a good deal for doctors. We are reducing the maximum hours a doctor can be asked to work from 91 to 72 hours [a week]. We’re stopping doctors being asked to work for five nights in a row.
Junior doctors are the backbone of the NHS, we totally depend on them, we had a very difficult winter last year and junior doctors worked incredibly hard, and I want to support them.
Frankly if I was in [their] shoes and I was being told the government is making the kinds of changes that [Lonsdale’s] talking about, I would be very angry as well. But we aren’t [imposing those changes].
Hunt believes that the proposals would benefit doctors by reducing their maximum weekly working hours.
Junior doctors and the BMA have rejected his claims however, and said the rally in Westminster was a “wake-up call for ministers”. The BMA is demanding that the government withdraw its threat to impose the new contract in England from next year.
Critics say the new contract involves pay cuts of up to 30 per cent, with “normal hours” extended to include 7am to 10pm every day except Sunday, and overtime done away with.
Not only does that mean doctors will potentially be worse off financially, they also fear it will create unsafe working conditions in which patients could be harmed and lives put at risk.