Junior doctors today outlined their determination to continue to fight against an “unsafe” contract set to be imposed by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
Mr Hunt was due to make an urgent statement in the Commons at lunchtime [12pm] backing a new call from Government negotiator Sir David Dalton and hospital bosses for the Government to do “whatever it deems necessary” to end the four-year dispute with the British Medical Association.
Sources indicated that Mr Hunt would impose the contract.
Sir David, in a letter to Mr Hunt last night, said the BMA had refused to compromise on its wish to retain premium pay for the whole of Saturday and there was “no realistic prospect” of a negotiated settlement.
He warned that continuing the dispute would be “harmful” to the NHS and have “adverse consequences” for patients. Almost 3,000 operations were cancelled as a result of yesterday’s 24-hour walk-out.
Sir David said: “On this basis I therefore advise the Government to do whatever it deems necessary to end uncertainty for the service and to make sure that a new contract is in place.”
However, as thousands of doctors returned to work at 8am, leading campaigners warned an imposed deal would worsen already damaged morale and be a “disaster” for recruitment and retention.
Dr Reena Aggarwal, an obstetrician at Whittington hospital, told the Standard: “I think imposition is the wrong way to go. We will carry on fighting.
“This morning I have been in contact with a lot of junior doctors on social media. People are saying: ‘If imposition comes in, I will resign’, ‘I have never felt so apathetic’ and ‘If I do become a consultant I will leave the country.’”
Dr Dagan Lonsdale, of St George’s hospital, said: “Junior doctors would be incredibly disappointed if imposition is what the Health Secretary decides to do, and shocked at this turn of events.
“I don’t think doctors can do anything but continue to fight this contract. The BMA has offered a cost-neutral pay package that would resolve many of the fears we have over safety. Doctors are the kind of people to not just lay down if we see poor patient care being brought in.”