Junior doctors marched in Western Park yesterday

‘Not safe, not fair’

People thronged to Western Park yesterday afternoon to show their support for the BMA and junior doctors protesting proposed changes to working contracts.

The changes set to be discussed this coming month are both controversial and divisive, with the government saying that if there is no consensus reached within the month then the changes will be implemented anyway, in spite of the opposition.

Junior doctor’s showed their support for the national campaign throughout the morning by holding signs in front of the children’s hospital, building up for the larger march starting at 1pm.

Both junior doctors, medical students, and members of the public joined together to show their disapproval of the government’s proposed changes which would affect junior doctors. They experienced support from passers by and cars honking their horns as they chanted “not fair, not safe”.

Protesters gathering in front of Western Bank Park

Jonathan Cunliffe, final year medical student, spoke to us about why he was protesting. He said: “I’ll be starting to work as a junior doctor in summer, and this contract that the government is trying to push through, I don’t think will be safe for me and my patients next year. So really it’s for the benefit of myself, my future colleagues and my future patients that I want to come and protest against the contract.

“I guess they try and talk about the money and greedy doctors, but I don’t think many of us, if any, are bothered about the money. It’s the patient safety that people care about, it’s the idea that we’ll be overworked and that’s not safe. You don’t want to see a doctor who’s worked horrible shifts and will be exhausted. It’s the fear that you’ll make a mistake and that’s really scary.

“I’m there to help people, but we’re all human, if I’m tired and exhausted it’s more likely that something will happen. We have to remember that we’re people too. We want to have a life. We love working and treating people, but we also want a life too.”

Support your junior doctors

A junior doctor at the march told us about his experiences of being overworked, he said: “In my first job, a good week I would work 60 hours and a bad one I would work 80, which is double what a lot of full time jobs work. And I think that’s really dangerous, and that’s what a lot of us are worried about. Can you imagine how exhausted you are working 80 hours a week and making important decisions? It’s just not safe.

“It’s really complicated what they’re negotiating on, for example what counts as a night shift? So there’s often shifts that will run until 1am, and the government is saying that if your shift finishes at 1am that counts as a day shift, so you can be back in again at seven the next day.”

Kelly Mackenzie, a supporter of the march, said: “The contract being proposed by the government is not safe for patients as it is removing key safeguards that currently prevent junior doctors working excessive hours. We know that tired doctors make mistakes, which could directly impact patient care. We do not want that to happen.

“Furthermore, Jeremy Hunt is using the junior doctor contract issue to try to address the “7 day NHS” issue highlighted in the government’s election manifesto. He is not proposing to ensure any more junior doctors are trained. Instead he wants those of us already in the system to be spread even more thinly than we already are across 7 days a week. This is not sustainable and will eventually result in the break-up of our beloved NHS.

“Junior doctors do not want to strike, however, we are being pushed to breaking point and we feel that this is our only option to prevention the government imposing a contract that is unsafe for patients, unfair for junior doctors and unsustainable for our NHS.”