Scottish doctors show solidarity for English counterparts

Hundreds of Scottish junior doctors staged a solidarity protest last Tuesday night [6th October] to support doctors in England who face proposed cuts to their salary.

The protest, which took place in George Square, was a reaction to the plan to stop bonus pay for evening and weekend work as well as extend working hours.

Doctors in England are considering industrial action over the new contract which would come into force in August 2016. The proposed changes are feared to cause “unsafe and unfair” working conditions, according to the British Medical Association (BMA).

The large turnout in Glasgow showed the strong reaction towards the cuts, which do not affect Scotland or Wales because of the devolved powers in government.

The organiser of the event, junior doctor Dr Malcom White told the Evening Times “I saw the tide of strong feeling about the issue, particularly from colleagues in England, and wanted a way to show support.”

However, Health Minister Jeremy Hunt told the Conservative party conference on the same night that he condemns the BMA’s allegations by saying there are no plans to cut their pay.

Further to this, Hunt wrote an open letter to Dr Johann Malawana, chair of the British Medical Association’s junior doctors committee (JDC) last Thursday [8th October] and offered a concession: the government will not be cutting wages or extending hours.

However, instead of “automatic annual increments”, higher wages will be given after doctors pass levels of training.

The threat to extend working hours from 7pm to 10pm has been a sensitive issue as many junior doctors believe this will affect the quality of care they can offer to patients. Hunt has told the JDC that there are no plans to extend working hours.

He says: “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.”

William McLean from Kircudbright, Scotland is a student at UCL Medical School in London. He thinks the changes will deter young people to study medicine and “will exacerbate the current shortage of doctors being faced nationally.”

He goes on to say: “The contract will force doctors to work longer shifts (which some would argue are too long already – plus the extra hours most doctors do anyway) which will reduce the quality of care provided. As it stands, a trust incurs a fine if they work a doctor over so many hours. Basically I think it’s harking back to the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” [motto]”.

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