Junior doctors are taking to the streets of London on Saturday to protest new contracts that the British Medical Association (BMA) has called “unsafe and unfair.”
Doctors are marching from Waterloo to Parliament Square this afternoon to protest new government reforms they claim will force them to work longer hours for less money.
The reforms are wide-ranging but the big issue doctors have is the changing of the definition of “sociable hours.”
At the moment, junior doctors are paid the standard rate of pay when they work between 7am and 7pm, Monday to Friday. Any time worked outside of this window earns them overtime pay.
But the new contract would see junior doctors paid the standard rate for working anytime between 7am and 10pm, Monday to Saturday. That essentially makes a 15-hour day “normal” and adds an extra day to the week.
The government argues that it needs this flexibility to deliver a “seven-day-a-week NHS.” But doctors fear it could lead to junior doctors being overworked.
By reducing the number of hours that earn overtime pay, junior doctors also say they will see a real-terms pay cut of up to 30%.
An estimated 17,000 people are expected to attend today’s protest.
Dr Johann Malawana, BMA junior doctors committee chair, says in a statement today: “The outpouring of anger and frustration we have seen from thousands of junior doctors across the UK, culminating in today’s unprecedented gathering in London, must be a wake-up call for ministers. If they thought that junior doctors would simply accept their threats of imposition they have been proved very wrong.
“One former Conservative health minister, previously responsible for the contract negotiations, has said publically that junior doctors are already delivering a seven-day service ‘week in week out, day in day out, looking after patients’ and that they deserve a contract that is ‘fair and properly rewards and looks after the interests of our medical workforce.'”
Dr Malawana is referencing MP Dr Dan Poulter, who released a video statement supporting junior doctors earlier this week.
Dr Malawana continues: “Instead of genuine negotiations, the government has insisted that junior doctors agree to recommendations without question. This is unacceptable and would not have allowed the BMA to negotiate over proposals we believe are unsafe for patients, unfair for doctors, and undermine the future of the NHS.
“We have always stated that without the continued threats of imposition and pre-conditions, the BMA would be happy to enter meaningful negotiations. But until the government gives junior doctors the reasonable assurances they are demanding we will continue with our course of action.”
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