The Guild of Students and the University of Birmingham Medical Society stands by the Junior Doctors on strike tomorrow , and in any further upcoming industrial action they may choose to take in relation to the government’s proposed changes to the Junior Doctor Contracts. As a Union that is home to - and represents - thousands of medical students, we believe that the contracts being imposed by Jeremy Hunt are neither safe nor fair.
The proposed changes were initially drawn up back in 2012, before negotiations between the government and the British Medical Association (BMA) broke down in 2014. So, when it was announced that Jeremy Hunt planned to enact the contract changes in 2015, the BMA responded by initiating industrial action following a huge 98% backing from its members. Jeremy Hunt’s plan have also recently been criticised by Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston, a former GP and Chair of the Health Select Committee, along with many Labour MPs across the UK.
You find out more about how the proposed changes will reduce junior doctor pay here:
It’s worth remembering that the term ‘junior doctor’ encompasses everyone from recently graduated medical students to those almost 10 years into their profession. Your average junior doctor starting salary is £23,000 - perhaps stretching up to £30,000 thanks to the amount of overtime and unsociable hours worked – not exactly a huge amount when you consider how much they work, the lives they save and how long they have been in education to get to this point.
Next year we will see the first set of our medical students graduating with eye watering amounts of debt, after paying £9000 a year for their five years of education. They’ll then go into a job which has one of the highest levels of dropouts and suicide rates across the UK, with the added bonus of a substantial pay cut to an already fairly low salary. The regressive changes don’t only mean a pay cut for thousands of potential junior doctors and they don’t only remove safeguards which are put in place for patient safety: they also leave the NHS vulnerable to collapse if levels of service and staffing cannot be maintained.
The NHS has never been of greater concern for people across the UK. Almost 55% of us expect our healthcare service to get worse. We know there are big problems with A&E waiting time, staff shortages and lack of investment in facilities to meet the needs of patients (of whom, it’s worth remembering, we’ll all probably be one day!). But these problems simply can’t be solved without at least £8bn of investment over the next 5 years. Certainly, the rhetoric of “lazy” doctors and the need for a “seven day NHS” being pumped out at the moment is dangerous. The NHS is open 7 days a week, 24 hours a day as we speak – and doctors and nurses are working around the clock and over their agreed working hours to make sure patients are safe, well and looked after whenever they are admitted. The last thing that we should be doing asking our doctors and nurses to work more hours for less, and removing the safeguards that mean that, at some point, they are allowed to go home and rest before their tiredness puts patients at risk.
Let’s be clear – patients’ lives are at risk. But not because of those junior doctors who have chosen to strike today. The real danger comes from the contract changes themselves and from Jeremy Hunt’s determination to force through his “seven day NHS” without regard for the safety of patients or the working conditions of junior doctors.
We would advise any medical students on placement today to contact their relevant hospital to ascertain whether they are required to report today.
We will continue, as a student’s union, to work alongside the BMA to best represent the needs of our current medical students and future junior doctors. We would encourage you to stand by us tomorrow and join our whiteboard campaign.
For more information visit the BMA website here: http://oneprofession.bma.org.uk/
Jack Mably Gita Lingham
Guild President MedSoc President