An ‘indefinite’ peaceful protest outside the Department of Health’s Leeds headquarters has been launched by Northern junior doctors this morning.
The move mirrors a high-profile demonstration outside the Government’s Richmond House building in Whitehall, which has seen two doctors sat waiting each day since last week in protest at Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s move to impose a controversial new contract on juniors in August.
Every weekday two grassroots doctors from the North of England will be stationed outside the entrance to Quarry House, in Leeds, from 9am to 5pm, calling for Mr Hunt to engage with them and re-enter contract talks.
The Health Secretary yesterday insisted there will be “no retreat” over plans to impose the deal amid suggestions that he may not have the legal powers to actually force it upon junior doctors.
Dr Polly Dickerson, a West Yorkshire ophthalmology registrar who is one of the two juniors launching the Leeds protest today, said: “We are here to demonstrate that junior doctors are desperate to talk.
“Our first priority is a safe, caring NHS, that enables us to take care of our patients. The contract that the Government is imposing will put that at risk.”
Fellow protestor Dr Chris Marshall claims the Government is “refusing to listen to 54,000 whistleblowers” by not stepping back from contract imposition.
He said: “I believe the imposition of this unsafe and unfair contract will lead to deteriorating care, lower staffing and worsening outcomes for patients nationally.”
The ongoing dispute between the British Medical Association and the Government has seen junior doctors undertake widespread industrial action over recent months.
A fifth strike is currently planned for April 26 and 27, with a full withdrawal of labour on the cards between the hours of 8am and 5pm on both days.
I believe the imposition of this unsafe and unfair contract will lead to deteriorating care.Dr Chris Marshall, a junior doctor from West Yorkshire.
If the strike goes ahead it will be the first time ever that doctors have staged a full walk-out.
Speaking in the House of Commons yesterday, Mr Hunt said the proposed new contract will begin to be implemented in August as part of a phased approach.
“This Government has a mandate from the electorate to introduce a seven-day NHS and there will be no retreat from reforms that save lives and improve patient care,” he said.
“Modern contracts for trainee doctors are an essential part of that programme and it is a matter of great regret that obstructive behaviour from the BMA has made it impossible to achieve that through a negotiated outcome.”
He added that the new contract is “fair, justified and will promote equality of opportunity” because it introduces “shorter hours, fewer consecutive nights and fewer consecutive weekends”.