The battle between health secretary Jeremy Hunt and the British Medical association continues as the as new contracts are imposed on junior doctors.
Over the past year there have been protests, talks and speeches that have left junior doctors “exhausted”. In October 2015, the Conservative government announced changes to contracts aimed at keeping the NHS open seven days a week. However, many junior doctors complain that they will be working longer hours for less pay under the new rules.
Doctors argue that we already have a 7 day NHS. The new contracts aim to reduce pay Jeremy Hunt has cited statistics showing that patients were more likely to die on a weekend in hospital.
However, studies conducted by the University of Manchester and York, show that there are fewer fatalities in hospitals on the weekends
The author of the Journal of Health Services Research & Policy, Rachel Meacock, wrote; “The average number of patients attending A&E on weekend days and dying within 30 days is similar to weekdays. The crude death rate following an A&E attendance is significantly lower at the weekend compared to during the week (0.99 per cent vs. 1.03 per cent).”
The BMA are therefore claiming that the new contract takes advantage of younger, less experienced doctors that are more readily available.
Though the government claims that the old one was not “fit for purpose”, “unsafe” and was “unsustainable”, the BMA and junior doctors believe the new contract doesn’t do enough to enhance, terms and conditions for junior doctors and also the protect for junior doctors who raise concerns at work.
Since September 2015, there have been many propose strikes, half of which took place. The impact is stacking up:
- On January 12th, 4000 operations had to be cancelled during the 24-hour walkout of doctors.
- The total number of operations cancelled throughout the strikes is now estimated to be around 125,000 according to the BMA.
- It is estimated that around one million appointments will also be cancelled.
Jeremy Hunt claims the strikes have had a huge effect on the health of England’s patients;
“Perhaps 100,000 operations will now have to be cancelled, around a million hospital appointments will have to be postponed, causing worry, distress and anxiety for families up and down the country,” said Hunt.
On February 10th and the 9th and 10th of May there were more strikes and even more cancellations of operations and procedures, having a knock on effect on both patients and staff in England hospitals and surgeries. It also meant that for appointments in a hospital could see the patient on a year long waiting list.
Campaigners have even tried to prevent the new contract through legal means. Jeremy Hunt won a high court case against ‘Justice for Health’, who were in court arguing that the contract was “unsafe and unsustainable”.
However the judge, Mr Justice Green, ruled that Jeremy Hunt had “acted squarely” within his powers.
The new contract will come into full effect in October of this year.
Since Mr. Hunt said that the new contract will go ahead, the BMA planned but then decided against a five day strike in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Some junior doctors felt that a five day strike would negatively affect hospitalised patients in England, possibly causing a backlash from the public.
The junior doctor’s committee (JDC) of the British Medical Association said they are however “planning other actions over the coming weeks.”
It is now a waiting game to see how the new junior doctor’s contracts affects hospitals in England, and also how it will affect the public admitted to accident and emergency and other departments.