Monday, August 20The Voice of London

NHS Faces First All-Out Strike Ever

The British Medical Association (BMA) has called for a strike vote this week following proposed changes to junior doctors’ pay, announced by Health secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Words: Isabella Ellis, Subeditor: Mariya Savova

The new contract would mean a dramatic increase to ”standard-hours of pay”.

Under the plans junior doctors will not be eligible for a higher rate of pay until 10pm on weekdays, which is an increase of three hours on current legislation. Working on Saturdays, which previously qualified for higher rate, would also be paid at the standard rate until 7pm.

Doctors said that the changes are equivalent to a 30% pay cut.

The vote is expected to approve industrial action, resulting in doctors walking out on 1, 8 and 16 December. The strikes would mean that staff will only be able to provide emergency care, reducing the service to a standard usually reserved for Christmas day.

The BMA said that the proposed changes were ”bad for patients, bad for junior doctors, and bad for the NHS.”

On 18 October 20,000 protesters marched through central London in opposition to the contracts, chanting ”Hunt must go!”

The debate surrounding the cuts took off on BBC Question Time when an audience member accused Jeremy Hunt of losing touch with Britain’s 45,000 junior doctors.

Deputy UKIP leader, Paul Nuttall, held increased workforce and immigration accountable for the NHS crisis, whereas Labour Shadow education secretary Lucy Powell blamed the Conservatives for not injecting promised funding into the service.

Jeremy Hunt called the response ”extreme” and said that the BMA should put their patients first. However, supporters of industrial action argued that this is exactly what they are doing.

”Were it possible for medical students to take industrial action then I would join them. The change to contracts could negatively impact the safety and quality of care of patients, which should be the primary concern, and this is the case for those striking,” medical student Kate Holmes told Voice of London.

”On top of that, junior doctors are being faced with lower pay and longer working hours. I don’t think any medical professional would ever want to feel like they could be partially responsible for poor care of a patient due to working hours of contracts that are completely out of their control,” she added.

The results of the ballot will be finalised on Wednesday. Meanwhile, a petition to Jeremy Hunt, demanding the changes to be stopped, continues to gain signatures.