Worry over reforms to doctors’ hours could lead to industrial action

Dr David Wrigley
Dr David Wrigley

Junior doctors across Lancashire could soon take strike action over reforms to working hours and pay.

Changes to the Junior Doctors’ Contract, set to be brought in by the Government next year, include scrapping safeguards stopping doctors working when they are too tired, and reclassifying which hours are ‘normal’.

Currently doctors working after 7pm on a week night or at a weekend are paid extra. With the new contract, doctors only get paid extra for working after 10pm or on a Sunday.

Within the next month the British Medical Association (BMA) will ballot members for industrial action, after failing to agree terms with the Govenment.

Dr David Wrigley, BMA representative for Lancashire, said changes are seen by many to be “unsafe and unfair”.

He said: “It would lengthen the working week and the BMA wants doctors to be keen and alert, not tired, when seeing patients. Many doctors also feel it’s unfair that they could face pay cuts up to 40 per cent.

“Doctors don’t take industrial action lightly, but there is a huge amount of anger among junior doctors about what is happening to them and what is happening to the NHS.

“Many doctors are feeling disillusioned and are voting with their feet - leaving the NHS and going to work abroad. This is putting extra strain on the staff who remain and it puts off younger medical students.”

Dr Katherine Conroy, a regitrar working in Lancashire, said: “A lot of doctors are already feeling under a lot of pressure and very demoralised; the prospect of working more hours for less money is leading thousands to apply for jobs abroad.”

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “We are not asking junior doctors to work longer hours, that wouldn’t be safe. Nor are we seeking to cut their pay and it is utterly irresponsible for some people to try and scare people into believing we are. What we do want to do is to support the many doctors who do work weekends with properly staffed shifts, safe working hours and seven-day diagnostic services so that patients are not put at risk.”