Lord Winston, the world-renowned fertility expert, was today among more than 300 consultants at one of the UK’s biggest NHS trusts to give their public backing to junior doctors.
As talks resumed at Acas this morning in a bid to avert three days of strikes due to start next Tuesday, senior clinicians at Imperial College Healthcare criticised the Government for a “lack of understanding” over its proposed imposition of new junior doctor contracts.
A total of 321 Imperial consultants signed a letter to the trust’s junior doctors, vowing to ensure that patient safety is maintained in the event of any walkout and telling them: “You have our full understanding and practical and moral support.”
The letter is signed by some of the most eminent clinicians working in the NHS, including Lord Winston, a professor of science and society and emeritus professor of fertility studies, cardiologist Professor Petros Nihoyannopoulos, kidney expert Professor Charles Pusey and cancer surgeon Professor Nagy Habib.
Another signatory, paediatric consultant Dr Bernie Borgstein, told the Standard that she had never seen the medical profession so united in her 34 years as a doctor.
“I have heard some people say it’s unethical for doctors to strike,” she said. “I think it’s unethical for them not to in a situation where there is a long-term threat to patient safety. In my mind, it’s a form of whistleblowing.”
The letter states: “We would like to publicly register our concern regarding the new contract and its impact on junior doctor morale, clinical and academic training and retention, patients safety and the very future of medical research and of the NHS.”
Dr Antonio de Marvao, a junior doctor who helped to organise the letter, said: “At such a difficult time it is crucial to know that we can count on the strong support from our consultants and to know that they will ensure our patients will remain safe.
“It should also be a reality check to the Department of Health when such a large number of experienced clinicians and distinguished academics stand with their juniors in saying that this new contract is unfair, unsafe and unworkable.”
If the Acas talks fail, junior doctors are due to walk out for 24 hours from 8am next Tuesday – though not in emergency departments – and between 8am-5pm on December 8 and 16.