Jeremy Hunt’s announcement today (Thursday 11 February) that he intends to impose new contracts on junior doctors is the ‘nuclear option’ that will do nothing to improve patient safety.
Unite, the country’s largest union, said that the health secretary’s unilateral imposition of the contract was ‘high-handed’ and will lead to a mass exodus of junior doctors either to jobs abroad or to alternative employment, such as in academia.
Unite, which embraces Doctors in Unite (DiU), said it was looking into the legal consequences of imposition and will assist junior doctors in the weeks and months to come as their employment circumstances change.
Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said: “We are very concerned that imposition of a national contract on 45,000 employees is disproportionate and will lead to further demoralisation which could be irreparable for a generation.
“Many junior doctors are already looking at jobs abroad or at alternative jobs in academia or the private sector.
“The losers are certainly the doctors, but more importantly, patients. Doctors and other NHS staff repeatedly 'go the extra mile' for patients by working well beyond their contracted hours of work. This could become a thing of the past due to the high-handed way they have been treated.
“Jeremy Hunt has adopted a very macho posture and thinks he is re-running the Tory onslaught against the miners in the 1980s - junior doctors are not ‘the enemy within’ and the secretary of state should not use this portrayal.
“However, this won’t wash as the vast majority of the public are behind the junior doctors as they know the wonderful care they give in the over-stretched NHS.
“Junior doctors are already working seven days-a-week. The fundamental issue here is that Hunt won’t provide sufficient new funding to ensure a properly resourced seven days-a-week service.
“He is trying to do this on the cheap at the expense of patient safety, and the terms and conditions of the junior doctors.
“Unite calls on Hunt to seriously rethink the imposition and get back around the table with the British Medical Association (BMA). In the meantime, we will offer all the support of the union to the junior doctors, since an attack on them is an attack on all NHS workers.
“Imposition of this contract has been branded by many HR directors as ‘the nuclear option'. Improving the service to patients is the last thing it will achieve.”
Notes to editors:
Doctors in Unite (DiU) is a professional section of the Unite health sector, offering doctors a radical voice and employment support on developments in the NHS. Doctors in Unite is the successor organisation to the Medical Practitioners Union (MPU) whose origins go back to the First World War.
For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble in the Unite press office on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940.
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.