On 11 February 2016, the Secretary of State for Health announced that the Government would impose a new contract on junior doctors in England from August 2016. Responding to the Health Secretary's decision to impose a contract on junior doctors, Heidi Alexander MP (Shadow Health Secretary) said: "[Jeremy Hunt's] failure to listen to junior doctors, his deeply dubious misrepresentation of research about care at weekends and his desire to make these contract negotiations into a symbolic fight for delivery of seven-day day services has led to a situation which has been unprecedented in my lifetime." Barry sets out his opinion below.
I know how strongly junior doctors feel that this issue has been badly handled, and I share the utter dismay of many of my constituents in Brent North that the government have picked an unnecessary fight. Junior doctors are vital to the future of the NHS and it is clear that if we want to move toward a seven-day NHS and improve patient care we need to ensure that the staff we rely on feel supported and valued.
I fear imposition will further destroy morale and has now led to plans for more industrial action which will be distressing for patients, doctors, and everyone else who works in or depends on the NHS.
The Royal College of Surgeons, the Royal College Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health have all urged the Government not to impose a contract. Indeed, a recent independent poll suggests 90 per cent of junior doctors would consider resigning from the NHS if contracts were imposed.
In October 2015 I supported an Opposition motion which urged the Government to guarantee that no junior doctor will have their pay cut as a result of a new contract; and called on the Government to put forward safe and fair proposals. Unfortunately the Government rejected the motion.
Junior doctors are dedicated, highly qualified people on whom we all depend. Even at this late stage, I hope the Health Secretary will go back and negotiate with them.