Today Junior Doctors will begin a 48-hour strike where they will refuse to cover emergency care to patients.
I do not blame all Junior Doctors for being concerned by having a new contract imposed on them. However, the BMA did not have to allow the dispute to get to this.
The BMA claim that the Government has refused to negotiate. The Government and BMA have had 75 meetings where the Government has made 74 concessions. The one outstanding issue is surrounding the issue of premium pay for Saturday working.
The BMA say the new contract will put patient safety at risk. I can understand that some Junior Doctors may not like the new pay structure, but I refuse to accept the BMA’s assertion that it will effect patient safety.
The new contract will give Junior Doctors a 13.5% increase in basic pay. They will also receive a 30% uplift to their basic pay if they work one Saturday in four. Contrast this with other public sector workers whose pay settlements are nowhere near as generous.
The Government were elected on a commitment to introduce a truly seven day NHS. It is ironic that the BMA has gone to such lengths to prevent improvements to the health service, the same BMA that campaigned 70 years ago to prevent the NHS from being set up. This is why any reform of the NHS is so difficult and successive governments have shied away.
As a result of the new contract 75% of Junior Doctors will be better off. Currently, Junior Doctors can work 91 hours per week. The new contract will cut this to a maximum of 72 hours, which will actually keep patients safer rather than put them at risk.
I hope that no patients are put at risk or are inconvenienced over the next 48 hours and that Junior Doctors will return to work on Thursday and continue the fantastic work they do and always have done.
I think, like everyone else in the NHS, what doctors want most is to save lives and treat people who are unwell and I hope we can put this damaging strike behind us and continue to make the improvements to the NHS that taxpayers deserve.