I appreciate how strongly junior doctors feel about this issue and that there is also real concern among many people in London and across the country with the way the Government have handled this.
The Government's current approach is completely the wrong way forward and I believe that they should work with the BMA and junior doctors to find a fair agreement that avoids the threat of industrial action.
Junior doctors are absolutely vital to the future of the NHS and it is clear that if we want to move toward a seven-day NHS and improve patient care, we need to ensure that the staff we rely on are supported, understood and valued.
So it is deeply concerning that the BMA have described the proposed contract as 'unsafe and unfair' and that the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health have stated that this could be 'gravely damaging to the health and wellbeing of children' and 'adversely affect recruitment, retention and the morale' of junior doctors.
I also fear that, rather than addressing the real strains our NHS is currently facing, the Government are punishing staff for their own financial mismanagement of the NHS. Our very own St George’s Hospital in Tooting is already suffering major financial challenges as a result of its £42.5 million deficit and at a time when treatments and services are potentially being rationed to save money, the last thing we want to do is demoralise the very staff who work so hard to take care of us.
The Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt should now withdraw the threat of imposing a new contract and re-engage in a meaningful dialogue with the BMA and NHS staff. The Government also need to accept that compromise is necessary to reach a fair settlement and come forward with a better deal that ensures patient safety is not put at risk.