I have been contacted by many doctors, patients and others working in the National Health Service who have deep concerns about the government’s approach to managing our NHS, and in particular about their stance on negotiating a new junior doctors contract.
A new junior doctor contract is a once in a generation opportunity to improve the training and conditions for our junior doctors, the future consultants and GPs of our NHS. But the proposals Jeremy Hunt has put forward, together with his handling of the contract negotiation, has caused anger. With morale in the NHS already at rock bottom, it is now a real threat to the recruitment and retention of NHS staff.
I’m delighted that Labour secured an Opposition Day Debate in the House of Commons yesterday, where we called on the government to show a willingness to compromise and put forward proposals which safe for patients and fair for staff.
Junior doctors are the backbone of our hospitals. They are the doctors we first see when we turn up at A&E, they are the doctors that look after us on the wards. In every hospital, in every department junior doctors are there on the frontline. They come in early and leave late. They provide care seven days a week, 24 hours a day.
And what have they been given in a return? A contract that could cut their pay that threatens their family life and puts their health at risk. Worse still, they’ve been told they have to like it our lump it because the Health Secretary is going to impose it whether they like it or not.
The fact that the negotiations over the new contract have now come to a standstill is a damning indictment of the approach the Health Secretary has pursued and the intransigence he has shown. This dispute will only be resolved when both sides return to the negotiating table. For that to happen the Health Secretary needs to show he is willing to compromise, and put patient safety ahead of politics.
The new contract needs to be fair for junior doctors and safe for the patients they care for. We must not allow this Government to take us back to the bad old days of worn out staff, too exhausted to provide safe patient care.Labour’s debate on Wednesday sent a clear message to Jeremy Hunt – scrap your plans to impose this unsafe contract, show you are willing to compromise, and put patient safety ahead of politics.
People may be interested in a blog from our new Shadow Secretary of State for Health on this issue, which you can read here.