More than 1,700 Yorkshire doctors and medical students will protest against proposed changes to the contracts of junior doctors next week.
The number of medics planning to demonstrate has more than doubled in a matter of weeks, with crowds expected to swell at the event in Victoria Gardens, Leeds, on Wednesday October 28 from 7pm.
Harry Leslie Smith, the NHS campaigner whose speech went viral last year, and the British Medical Association’s (BMA) Junior Doctor Committee chair Dr Johann Malawana will be among the speakers.
It follows similar protests in London and Manchester over controversial plans to change the contracts of junior doctors, which medics claim could cut pay by up to 30 per cent, remove safeguards to prevent them working excessive hours and redefine unsociable hours.
A breakdown in talks between the BMA and Government over the issue has sparked the threat of an unprecedented strike.
Organiser Dr Phil Atkinson, a junior doctor from Bramhope, said: “The interest expressed by junior doctors across the region has been incredible, when you think about it that makes a lot of sense given what is going on and the threat that this is to patient safety and the future of the NHS.”
Junior doctors and students from all over the county have formed a committee supporting the demo amid fears the changes could force medical talent abroad and lead to costly mistakes from overworked doctors.
The move would also see Monday to Saturday, from 7am to 10pm, deemed normal working hours, while at present any work done outside 7am to 7pm Monday to Friday is paid at a higher rate.
Despite a planned basic pay increase, Yorkshire medics who work regular unsociable hours on intensive care wards, for example, fear the changes could mean them working more hours on heavily reduced less pay.
The changes could be enforced from August 2016 and could affect 6,000 junior doctor posts in Yorkshire and 53,000 workers in England.
Earlier this month a letter from Jeremy Hunt to the BMA attempted to reassure medics that the changes were not a cost cutting exercise, doctors would not receive reduced pay and that longer hours would not be imposed.
He said: “The negotiations on the new contract began on the basis of a shared view between the BMA and employers that the current contract had served its purpose and needed reform. The best deal for junior doctors will be achieved by the BMA coming to the table to negotiate.”
But Dr Malawana responded by saying they still need “concrete assurances” over pay, safeguards and how unsociable hours are defined. He said the disillusionment felt by junior doctors as a result of the proposals “puts in jeopardy your manifesto commitment to deliver a seven day NHS”.
A crowdfunding site to pay for a PA system and refreshments has been set up, with any funds left over to be donated to the Leeds Medics’ Charities. Visit http://goo.gl/Z12yYN.