Over the last few weeks, Norman Lamb has been speaking out in support of junior doctors regarding the ongoing dispute over the junior doctors’ contract.
The Conservative Government has recently proposed a number of changes to the pay and working practices of junior doctors, claiming that the current contract is acting as a barrier to a seven-day service in the NHS – even though there is no evidence that this is actually the case.
Junior doctors are extremely concerned that the changes proposed by the Government will disadvantage junior doctors who work regular weekend and night shifts, increase the risk of doctors being overworked, and discriminate against doctors who choose to work less than full time, including many women who choose to step back from full-time work in order to start a family. This is all happening at a time when the NHS is already suffering from staff shortages and low morale.
Norman spoke up for junior doctors during a debate in the House of Commons, criticising the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt for pursuing these plans and warning that there may be a mass exodus of junior doctors from the NHS if they feel undervalued by the new contract. He added:
“I met some junior doctors yesterday and found them all to be very passionate and completely dedicated to the NHS. I found them to be not driven and motivated by pay. I have to say to the Secretary of State that junior doctors find it frankly insulting to be told that they have been misled by the British Medical Association [over the impact of the contract]. They are intelligent enough to make up their own minds, and they have done.”
You can read Norman’s entire speech here.
After the debate, Norman wrote to the Health Secretary to challenge his “pledge” that not a single doctor working up to 56 hours a week will suffer a pay in their cut. In his response, however, Jeremy Hunt refused offer any assurances for the many junior doctors who legally work beyond these hours.
You can read Norman’s letter, and the Health Secretary’s response, here.
Jeremy Hunt’s latest offer to junior doctors fell far short of addressing these concerns, and the BMA will now press ahead with balloting their members over potential strike action. Urging the Health Secretary to resolve the situation, Norman said:
“It is essential Jeremy Hunt takes meaningful steps to address the legitimate concerns of junior doctors. I sincerely hope that strike action can be avoided, and that the Government and the BMA Junior Doctors’ Committee can negotiate a new contract which offers the best deal for junior doctors and the public.
“In the long run, I am concerned that this dispute will lead to many hardworking and talented NHS staff leaving the NHS unless the Government is able to achieve a satisfactory resolution.
“This dispute reflects wider problems of staff and resource pressures in the NHS, which the Government must do more to resolve. In the debate in the Commons, I repeated my call for a non-partisan fundamental review of NHS and social care funding, as proposed in the Liberal Democrats’ 2015 manifesto. I hope that the other parties will work with me to ensure a sustainable future for our NHS.”