All of us rely on the NHS and appreciate the fantastic work of NHS staff in providing our nation with one of the best health services in the world. Recently I was diagnosed with breast cancer; I don’t know where I’d be without the kind and compassionate support of the staff who have been treating me.
Junior doctors up and down the country work incredibly hard in often extremely difficult circumstances to provide the best possible care for their patients. They do not do this for money or prestige: they do it because they feel they have a duty to help others, which I admire immensely.
I know that there has been widespread concern in the profession about proposed changes to the junior doctor contract, which include a substantial pay cut and an unreasonable reclassification of unsocial hours. This has been passionately expressed to me by many junior doctors in my constituency, who have emphasised the fact that they already work very long hours and often feel that their hard work is unappreciated.
I sympathise greatly with these concerns and am alarmed at the confrontational and imprudent manner in which the Health Secretary is attempting to drive through these changes, which fail to acknowledge the current strain the NHS is under. The Government’s priorities for the NHS are wrong and that they are out of touch with the reality that NHS staff face every day.
It is vital for a sustainable and properly functioning health service that staff are fairly remunerated and enjoy a satisfactory work-life balance, both for their sake and for the sake of the patients they are treating. You may have seen reports of an increasing number of junior doctors registering to work overseas – a damning indictment of this Government’s mismanagement of our health service.
I am keen to work with my Labour colleagues in Parliament to press the Government to reconsider the implementation of these proposals; and will be writing to the Health Secretary personally on this matter. I should stress, however, that these are not changes that Parliament will actually vote on (as a result of the Coalition Government’s NHS reforms). If you are concerned about this matter I would urge you to ask anyone you know who lives in a Conservative-held constituency to contact their MP so that the pressure on the Government is not just coming from the opposition.
You may also like to read a blog on this issue from Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, Heidi Alexander: Jeremy Hunt Trying to ‘Take On’ Junior Doctors Is Precisely the Wrong Approach.