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30 October 2015
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My reason for attending the #juniorcontract rally on 16 October

Safe patients, safe doctors

A great deal has been written about the junior doctor contracts in the last few months. The heart of the matter, though, can be simplified to ‘safe patients, safe doctors’. The proposed contract seeks to remove the current safeguards protecting doctors from working dangerously long hours.

This can only result in a reduction in the quality of care we provide. Our patients’ safety and care is our number one priority and we cannot passively allow changes which would endanger this.

Recently, health secretary Jeremy Hunt stated that 11,000 excess deaths were due to "excessive overtime rates paid at weekends". In his comments there appears to be some confusion in discriminating overtime from the banding system which governs the payment of doctors up to consultant level.

This was specifically introduced in 2000 to improve working conditions by reducing overall hours and ensuring minimum rest breaks. Patients are therefore seen by safe, appropriately rested doctors, similar to arrangements in place for pilots and heavy goods vehicle drivers.

To clarify, junior doctors have no system of claiming for overtime, but do routinely go far beyond rostered hours. We do this to provide the best care for our patients, not for financial compensation.

Core to the current disputes seems to be a considerable amount of confusion surrounding the 7-day services. Every Saturday and Sunday, thousands of doctors are working across the country to provide a wide range of acute and emergency care for patients. Routine services such as outpatient clinics do not run at weekends, which is the same across the world. We need to maintain a commitment to improving these acute and emergency services seven days a week in an equitable and safe manner.

As a final note, proposed contract changes will undoubtedly increase the pay gap between men and women in medicine. The independent financial review board also highlighted their concerns with NHS employers. The response – "provisions that affected individuals differently were reasonably necessary to achieve business objectives" – sets a dangerous precedent for the largest employer in the United Kingdom.

Why did I attend the rally on 16 October, together with thousands of junior doctors? Because I passionately believe in safe patients, safe doctors.

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About the author

Judith Tweedie's picture

Judith Tweedie

Jude is the Chair on the FMLM Trainee Steering Group. She was a National Medical Director's Clinical Fellow with FMLM and the Royal College of Physicians of London.

Jude trained in cardiology and general internal medicine in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Alongside general training, she also undertook advanced specialist modules in echocardiography and cardiac magnetic resonance imaging.

Jude completed her undergraduate medical degree at the University of Aberdeen. During this time she attained an intercalated degree researching novel techniques in the diagnosis of paediatric asthma. Foundation and core training were undertaken in Glasgow and Edinburgh before returning to Belfast for registrar training. 


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