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12th February 2016

85 per cent of Manchester medics likely to move abroad

The government’s plans to impose the new junior doctors contracts has led to many Manchester medics making plans to move abroad. Devolution campaigners have also questioned whether Manchester’s devolved NHS will have to impose the contract

On Wednesday students, NHS workers and supporters took to the streets and marched around the Manchester Royal Infirmary in protest at the government’s proposal to introduce new contracts for junior doctors.

It has since been announced that the government will force through the new contract in England despite the industrial action. Jeremy Hunt told MPs that the BMA had rejected the “best and final” offer to settle the dispute.

The latest contract offered by the government includes offering extra pay after 5pm, and offering to top up the pay by 30 per cent for those who work Saturdays.

The threat of imposing to the contracts has been long-standing and the failure to reach a settlement has resulted in him finally acting on it. Hunt accused the BMA of being inflexible and claimed to have the support of NHS chief executives.

However this claim of backing from 20 NHS bosses for the decision to impose the contracts on the junior doctors was revealed to be false, when at 14 of them publically said they’d never agreed to support this move. Many of the bosses had no idea that they have even been associated with the decision.

Max Thoburn, a junior doctor and spokesperson for the campaign, reacted to the announcement made by Jeremy Hunt that he would “end the uncertainty to the [NHS] by proceeding with the introduction of a new contract that [is] both safer for patients and fair and reasonable for junior doctors.”

Thoburn told The Mancunion he was not surprised by such a decision, stating: “We’ve been here before—last September he declared precisely the same thing. One of the things that has seen doctors so enraged since that time is the entirely undemocratic nature of such an imposition. It is incredibly demoralising to be a part of the front line staff and understand the practical implications of the contract, only to have your concerns fall on deaf ears and get steam rolled for political gain.”

Reacting to the Secretary of State’s revelation that junior doctors’ morale is at an all-time low and, as such, he would be spending tax payer’s money on an inquiry into why this should be the case, Thoburn declared that Hunt was the “reason for low morale” due to his “unending series of attacks on the professionalism, standards and conditions of healthcare workers, [which] has led to mass dissatisfaction and will see highly skilled but undervalued staff leaving in their droves.”

This prediction appears to ring true, as a recent survey of Manchester medical students proved. A survey was carried out with 2,000 Manchester medical students to gather their reactions to the proposed junior doctors contract.

It was revealed that while 88.5 per cent of students at Manchester were planning to eventually work within England when they started medical school, after the proposed contract changes 85.37 per cent are now more likely to leave the NHS to either practice medicine abroad or work in a different field. Almost 59 per cent of those who answered yes have also already taken action towards making this move.

Despite these statistics and the threat they pose, some Manchester medics have expressed why they believe people need to remain and stand up for the NHS. Emma Runswick Chair of Save Our NHS said: “We understand that the attacks on staff are part of the agenda to set the NHS up to fail, leaving privatisation as the only solution.

“Patients, the public and healthcare professionals and students want an NHS that is publicly funded, publicly provided, publicly accountable and free at the point of use. Doctors and the BMA have the opportunity to fight for their working conditions (our healthcare conditions), and in doing so provide a major stumbling block to those who would see our service die. They should have our absolute support in any action they take to defend themselves, their patients and our NHS.”

Thoburn despite the news that many medics plans to move abroad told The Mancunion that he still sees “a glimmer of hope. If the government have succeeded in doing one thing through this dispute, then it has been to politicise swathes of doctors, who have perhaps traditionally remained apathetic.

“The showings of solidarity amongst all health workers and stretching out into the public sector as a whole, has seen many groups starting to work together as they see that this is the only way to combat the policy makers. At lunchtime on Wednesday 10th February, in Manchester, we held a rally that was attended by 200-300 people and saw doctors, nurses, students, disabled people, firemen and politicians standing side by side and declaring with one voice that we will not accept these attacks on the NHS, on the public sector as a whole and, more widely, on a society that values all members as equal.”

Hannah McCarthy, Campaigns officer at the University of Manchester Students’ Union, told The Mancunion that the reason she stood on Wednesday with other students on the picket lines was to “[extend] our solidarity to the striking Junior Doctors [and] nursing, Midwifery and Allied Healthcare students [who] joined them in walking out over the scrapping of the NHS Bursary.”

McCarthy added that she stands “with the Junior Doctors as they strike not just over the attacks on their working conditions, but as they strike to save the NHS”. She declared that they are “demanding a health service which is publicly funded, publicly provided and free at the point of use for all”.

After the news broke that the government will impose the new contract on the profession, McCarthy again stressed that the Students’ Union continues to “stand in solidarity with Junior Doctors”. She called the government’s plans to impose the contracts “horrendous” and argued it showed that the “government had revealed their contempt for workers who have shown strength, courage, and inspiration to fight Hunt’s attacks on their terms and conditions.”

Greater Manchester Referendum Campaign/Campaign for Democratic Devolution (GMRC/CDD) have approached Mayor of Greater Manchester, Tony Lloyd and asked whether devolution would mean that Greater Manchester’s NHS would have to unite with the imposing of the contract.

The NHS in Scotland and Wales will be sticking to the existing contracts while also making moves to improve access to care at weekends, but not on the same scale as England.

GMPDC have said Lloyd “should support the Junior Doctors in their fight, to express the support of the majority of the Greater Manchester public for the action they are taking”.

Speaking on behalf of the GMRC/CDD, Greater Manchester Association for Trades Union Congress President Stephen Hall said: “Greater Manchester’s new ‘devolved’ NHS Chiefs, [should be] using their newly devolved powers to follow NHS Scotland and NHS Wales, rather than NHS England in imposing Jeremy Hunt’s contract on junior doctors.”

Hall continued by saying it was “an important test of the extent of Greater Manchester’s alleged new powers. Such a step would, we believe, also give expression to the people of Greater Manchester’s overwhelming support for the Junior Doctors in their fight, which has immense ramifications for all of us, and the future of the NHS.”

In a statement released by BMA they declare that “the Government’s shambolic handling of this process from start to finish has totally alienated a generation of junior doctors—the hospital doctors and GPs of the future, and there is a real risk that some will vote with their feet.

“Our message to the Government is clear: junior doctors cannot and will not accept a contract that is bad for the future of patient care, the profession, and the NHS as a whole, and we will consider all options open to us.”

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