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juniorcontract2January 13 2016

The Royal College of General Practitioners has warned of the risk to future GP recruitment the current industrial action is having.

On Tuesday, as junior doctors staged the first of the planned industrial action by only providing emergency care, RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker said: “It is disappointing that it has come to this. Doctors choose medicine because they want to care for patients and they deserve to do this in conditions that ensure safety for themselves and their patients. Today’s action shows that at present they do not feel that this is the case.

“The last few months have been incredibly tough for junior doctors, and have led to the lowest morale amongst our profession in a generation. Unless this situation is swiftly resolved, it could seriously impair our efforts to recruit thousands of additional doctors into the NHS over the coming years in order to keep the NHS sustainable.”

The RCGP had hoped that negotiations would lead to a resolution with junior doctors feeling both valued and able to keep patients safe, she said. “But it is evident that junior doctors do not think the proposed contract delivers this. We still believe that further negotiation is necessary – and the best way forward - but as it stands, junior doctors seem to have lost faith in the process to such an extent that they see industrial action as necessary.”

The BMA reported that there had been more than 150 pickets and ‘meet the doctor’ events across the country on Tuesday. “Junior doctors in their thousands have made it quite clear what they think of the government’s plans to impose contracts in which junior doctors have no confidence,” said Dr Johann Malawana, BMA junior doctors committee chair.

“Today’s action – one that the BMA has long sought to avoid – is a result of a fundamental breakdown in trust with junior doctors, for which the government is directly responsible. This has only been made worse by yesterday’s last minute, inept and heavy-handed attempts to bully junior doctors lawfully taking industrial action back into work.”

A Sunday Telegraph interview with Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said that more than 4,000 operations scheduled for Tuesday would be cancelled. He was also reported as saying that patients will be put at risk because doctors are “basically saying ‘we won’t be there for you in life-threatening situations’.”

On Monday, the BMA responded saying: ““No doctor takes industrial action lightly and we regret the disruption it will cause. However, junior doctors now feel that they have no option. The biggest threat to patient care is the government’s insistence on removing safeguards which prevent junior doctors from being forced to work dangerously long hours without breaks, with patients facing the prospect of being treated by exhausted doctors.

“The government is threatening to impose contracts in which junior doctors have no confidence and which represents the first step in a wholesale attack on all NHS staff at night and over weekends. We want a contract that is safe for patients, fair for juniors and good for the NHS.”

An NHS Choices leaflet offering advice to patients during the planned industrial action advised: “Your GP practice will be open and working as normal on the days of the industrial action. Given that GPs may experience greater demand than normal over this period, we strongly recommend that you contact them early if you need advice or an appointment.”

If the dispute is unresolved, further industrial action is planned for January 26-27, when only emergency care will be provided, and on February 10 with a full withdrawal of labour.
The Patients’ Association Chief Executive, Kathryn Murphy, called the lack of resolution “deeply regrettable” and said:
“Achieving a solution for the benefit of patients should have been the priority for the Department of Health and the BMA from the outset. This decision will cause a great deal of distress for many patients, who continue to be caught in the middle of this dispute.

“Whilst action could not be averted today, the Patients’ Association urges both sides to continue discussions in order to avoid further disruption from additional strike action in the coming weeks. Every day that a compromise cannot be reached, more operations and appointments are going to be cancelled. Both sides must remember that their first concern must always be patients, who deserve much better than this.”

Links:

RCGP statement

BMA statement January 12 2016

BMA statement January 11 2016

Patients’ Association statement

NHS Choices advice to patients

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