More than 80 consultants at London’s biggest NHS trust have recorded video “selfies” backing their junior doctors in the row with the Government over new contracts.
The top doctors agreed to show solidarity for their junior colleagues who fear the changes due to be imposed next August by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt will damage patient safety and result in large pay cuts.
The film, made by anaesthetist Dr Ruth Bird, features 85 consultants from St Bartholomew’s, the Royal London, Whipps Cross and Newham hospitals holding a sign saying “I support junior doctors”. The video has received about 4,000 hits on YouTube in a matter of days.
It comes after the medical council at Barts – made up of senior clinicians – issued “unanimous support” for junior doctors after discussing the effect of the new contracts on morale, training and safety.
The British Medical Association will on Thursday [November 5] begin balloting junior doctors on whether to take strike action, including a possible walk-out, with a decision due after November 18.
Dr Bird, 30, who works cardiac anaesthesia and cardiac intensive care at St Bart’s, said she wanted to demonstrate that many consultants were as “outraged” as junior doctors at the proposals.
“People are worried about job security, worried about their families, worried they won’t be able to pay their mortgages,” she told the Standard. “Having the bonus of people you look up to and learn from saying ‘This is not right, and we support you’, is motivating and very nice to see.”
She has been qualified for seven years but has £30,000 of student debt and will be a junior doctor for at least five more years. She said she and her orthopaedic surgeon husband Simon Fleming, who also works at Barts Health, would have to sell their flat if the feared 20 per cent pay cuts became reality.
“Junior doctors work really hard, and we do this because we care. I just wanted to show that the bosses are there for us. It made me proud to be part of Barts Health and proud of our bosses,” she said.
Junior doctors currently receive higher pay rates for working outside of 7am-7pm during the week but the Government wants to extend “normal” hours later into the night and into Saturday, as part of moves to cut the maximum hours a junior doctor can work from 91 to 72 hours a week.
Mr Hunt wants to improve patient safety by tackling the “weekend effect” of higher death rates among patients who are admitted between Friday and Monday.
However he has been accused of misrepresenting academic research for wrongly linking the death rates to the number of doctors on duty.
A Department of Health spokesman said: “We have already guaranteed that no junior doctor will see a pay cut compared to their current contract and the maximum number of hours any doctor can work will reduce.
“Strike action is not the way forward and always puts patients at risk. As many medical Royal Colleges and NHS leaders have urged, the BMA should come back to the negotiating table.”