Islington doctor: Contract changes will put patients’ lives at risk

An Islington doctor has warned that Jeremy Hunt’s proposed changes to junior doctors’ contracts will put patients’ lives at risk.

Under the health secretary’s proposals, “normal” working hours would be extended to run from 7am to 10pm, Monday to Saturday. Under current rules, doctors receive a higher rate of pay when they work outside of the hours between 7am-7pm, from Monday to Friday.

Junior doctors have claimed that the contract changes would lead to pay cuts of up to 30 per cent, as well as longer working hours.

Dr Pablo de Vena Franks, 33, who works as a specialist registrar in Anaesthetics and Intensive Care at the Whittington and Royal Free hospitals, warned this week that the changes would put patient care at risk.

“Junior doctors are often the ones providing you with a safe anaesthetic when you go for an operation, or the ones looking after your parents or grandparents when they are ill on the medical wards. Under the proposed changes, these doctors would work many, many more Saturdays at no extra cost; they will be less happy, more tired, and almost certainly less safe because of tiredness. How can this be good for patients?

“By stretching their workload, Jeremy Hunt’s contract would also make them less able to spend time with their patients and unable to complain when hospitals force them to work beyond their contracted hours.”

This could in turn lead to a mass exodus of staff, he warned.

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“Many doctors will probably leave under these new terms and work abroad, where other governments value their health professionals more. In Britain, you will therefore be more likely to see a locum or ‘temp’ doctor instead.”

Dr de Vena Franks, ofHorsell Road, Highbury, has lived in the borough of Islington all his life. He is now considering industrial action, along with 40,000 other junior doctors.

“Would I, or any other junior doctor actually want to go on strike if we had a choice?” he asks. “Of course not! But we are now left with little alternative.”

He added: “Jeremy Hunt has offered no sensible negotiation on the new contract and has not been willing to listen to the thousands upon thousands of concerns of junior doctors up until this point. He seems determined to push forward with his contract without our having a say in it.”