London Evening Standard/London
Hospital bosses yesterday called for the government to end the bitter dispute with junior doctors, saying: “We can’t carry on like this.”
They said it would be “legitimate and sensible” for Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to impose contracts with “fair and reasonable” terms as a 24-hour walkout saw almost 3,000 operations postponed or cancelled.
But a move to redesignate Saturdays and weekday evening shifts as “normal hours” would risk intensifying the four-year dispute with the British Medical Association and could lead to more protests, doctors warned.
Picket lines were in place outside hospitals from 8am across the capital yesterday as junior doctors went on strike for the second time this year. More than 600 planned operations were cancelled in London, and thousands of outpatients were unable to attend clinics.
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents NHS trusts, told the BBC: “The ideal conclusion would be for employers to make a final fair and reasonable offer. If the BMA doesn’t accept it, I think our members are saying to us that the secretary of state has to find a way to bring this to a conclusion.
“What we are saying is four years later, with almost 3,000 operations cancelled today, we can’t carry on like this. If the BMA won’t accept a fair and reasonable offer then, yes, it is legitimate and sensible for the secretary of state to consider imposition.”
Beth Goulden, a junior doctor protesting outside St Bartholomew’s Hospital, said imposition would damage morale, recruitment and retention.
She said: “ Hunt talks time and time again about the importance of front-line staff being able to speak out. Ninety-eight percent of us voted to take industrial action. He is ignoring us if he is thinking of imposing the new contracts.”
Labour mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan posted a picture of himself holding a “I support #juniordoctors” poster, and tweeted: “The government’s approach is bad for the NHS, bad for patients & bad for London.”
Mark Gregory, a junior doctor on a picket line outside Queen’s Hospital in Romford, said: “We already work 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The government’s plans for a seven-day NHS will stretch a five-day NHS that already has holes in its rota, and make the rota unsafe for patients.”
Junior doctors training as GPs said they were prepared to back action opposing what they believed were detrimental changes to the NHS.
Dr Bea Bakshi, a GP registrar in north-west London, told GP Online: “If that means GPs have to be put into a position where they have to stand up for themselves, I would support that.”
The department of health said: “We have agreed the vast majority of the contract detail with the BMA but it’s a great shame they have broken the agreement we made at ACAS to discuss the outstanding issue of Saturday work and pay for unsocial hours.”
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