The Government has created a “bitter and intractable” dispute with junior doctors and has forgotten the meaning of negotiation, doctors’ leaders have warned.
Leading figures within the British Medical Association (BMA) have also said that the Government risks losing the “hearts, the minds and often the bodies of a generation of junior doctors”.
At an urgent meeting called by doctors’ leaders in London today, BMA officials argued that the controversial new contract for junior doctors would fuel an NHS recruitment crisis.
The loaded statements came after a prolonged dispute between Government and the BMA over the planned August imposition of the new deal resulted in the first all-out doctors’ strike in the history of the NHS last week.
Accusing Government of trying to “undermine trust in doctors”, BMA chairman Mark Porter said: “The Department of Health thinks it has an overview, but it’s more that of a distant satellite, in a strange orbit all of its own.
“How else can you explain the biggest thing it has done to the health service this year – creating a bitter and intractable dispute with junior doctors, which wiser heads in Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast have managed to avoid?
“Today is not about the junior doctors’ contract dispute. It’s about defining and addressing the wider crisis in workload and morale. But it’s a symptom of that crisis. And it’s a crisis entirely of the Government’s making.”
Dr Porter suggested that both sides need to “back away from the cliff edge, restart talks and start the work of rebuilding junior doctors’ confidence” to reach a solution to the dispute. He added: “The Government has forgotten what negotiation even means.”
Last week consultants were drafted in to provide cover in hospitals as more than 125,000 appointments and operations were postponed as a result of the latest and most serious strike to date.
The action saw junior doctors stage a rally in Sheffield, picket outside almost every major hospital in Yorkshire and set up an ‘indefinite’ peaceful protest outside the Department of Health’s headquarters in Leeds.
Melody Redman, 25, a North Yorkshire junior doctor, also spoke of a “massive issue in retaining doctors” in Yorkshire, with many opting for research posts, locum shifts or travelling abroad in favour of going into specialist training.
She said: “We are able to identify lots of issues but until the Government works with us, it’s very hard to address them.”
Professor Jane Dacre, president of the Royal College of Physicians, also told the doctors’ meeting that the NHS is “under doctored, underfunded and over stretched”.
Last week Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt stood firm over plans to impose the deal during a speech in the House of Commons.
He said: “We are proud of the NHS as one of our greatest institutions. But we must turn that pride into actions – and a seven-day service will help us turn the NHS into one of the safest, highest quality health care systems in the world.”
Mr Hunt added that “no trade union has a right to veto a manifesto promise voted for by the British people” and urged junior doctors to reconsider the proposed new contract.