16,000 Medics March to Parliament Square in Protest: Roar Asks Why

After the huge success of the first medic protest last month, organisers are promising to make a ‘bigger, better, louder effort’ to voice their concerns over the changes to junior doctors’ contracts. They weren’t joking; the Facebook event has a current total of 16,000 people attending.

The new contract, set to be introduced next summer, could mean that junior doctors will have to work longer, more anti-social, hours for up to 40% less pay. Tomorrow thousands of King’s medical students, NHS staff and supporters will march through London’s streets to oppose these changes, and I ask them why:

Dr Sundeep Grewal: This is a once-in-a generation event, and a chance to show the DoH we are a united profession who will never forget our oaths to first do no harm

There are several alarming features in this contract which could have very negative consequences for both doctors and patients. The new contracts are an unwelcomed return to the punishing hours junior doctors used to work and could expose patients to potential harm because of mistakes made under such extreme pressures. Not only this, the normalisation of  antisocial hours will be accompanied by a significant pay cut. We feel that no single doctor should be subjected to this.

Many of the current doctors protesting are only partially affected by these changes. However, we are protesting to protect the future generations of doctors, and that’s why the support of medical students is paramount. This is a once-in-a generation event, and a chance to show the DoH that we are a united profession who will never forget our oaths to first do no harm.

A strike is the least desirable outcome which we desperately do not want. What we do want is open and honest negotiations and a reasonable chance to secure a good contract for patients and doctors. Until Jeremy Hunt and NHS employers are willing to do this, it seems industrial action and further protests are the only options available to us.

Doctor and Co-organiser of the Junior Doctors London Protest
 

KCL Student: They will realise their mistake once it’s too late

I’m not actually protesting. It’s not because I don’t care, but because I don’t think it makes a difference. They will realise their mistake once it’s too late and the best doctors have moved abroad where they are fully appreciated.   

Anonymous, King’s medical student

Simon Tetlow: Jeremy Hunt’s latest brainwave has crushed the optimism and enthusiasm of an entire generation of medical students

I still remember the day I knew that I wanted to be a doctor. When I was 16 I was offered work experience at my local District General Hospital, and I was struck by the commitment and passion of the staff. I knew that I wanted to be like the professional and dedicated people that I saw in that hospital.

Six years later, those ideals of commitment and public service are alive and well, but many of the doctors that practiced them are not. My future profession faces some of the highest levels of mental illness, suicide and addiction. The strain of the job pushes many beyond breaking point; I’ve been advised to drop out and pursue alternative careers by consultants burned out by years of fatigue, and I’ve seen overtired junior doctors struggle to make essential clinical decisions; putting patient care at risk.

Until recently none of these things had deterred me from being a doctor, but Jeremy Hunt’s latest plans have changed everything. Previously passionate friends are talking about careers in Australia or are simply unsure if they still want to complete their degree. For many of us, though, going abroad is not an option. Personally, I feel a sense of responsibility to the NHS after it has spent £250,000 on training each one of us.

To those who don’t think there’s any point in protesting:  We have to show that we’re not the disorganised, poorly-unionised soft target that Jeremy Hunt believes us to be, that we care about the safety of our patients and wish to protect them from a system that places them in danger from exhausted doctors.

Perhaps most importantly, I think people are wrong when they say it will make no difference. This is a fight that we can win; the public recognise that they do get good value for money from their junior doctors and I’ve seen letters, memos and articles from Conservative MPs showing that some within the party do not support Jeremy Hunt’s assault on doctors.

If we keep making noise then we can win. As medical students and future doctors we have a duty to act in the best interests of our patients, and that includes standing up and fighting when their doctors and their NHS are under threat.

Co-Organiser of the KCL & GK Together: Against Junior Doctors protest

Grace Burns: We can’t underestimate the relevance of the NHS and how crucial the service is to us

I think protesting on Saturday is really important. We have to remain conscious of issues which, although it may not necessarily directly affect us now, almost certainly will in the future.

We can’t underestimate the relevance of the NHS and how crucial the service is to us. If you don’t think it’s important, then try looking at other national health services-or lack of them- and see how great ours is comparably. We must protect that.

The protest is not just about junior doctors and medical students; it involves us all.

King’s English Literature Student

James Gregory: The new proposals are unacceptable and protesting them is the only way to show that

Jeremy Hunt is simply deluded to think that he can simultaneously slash doctors’ pay, extend their working hours and improve the quality of care that the NHS delivers. I can’t think of any other profession where working from 7am to 10pm is considered “normal working hours”.

The new proposals are unacceptable and protesting against  them is the only way to show that. If the contracts go ahead, I for one would almost certainly move abroad where doctors can work more sociable hours and are paid an amount proportionate to the years of training it takes to qualify, and the huge debts that accompany it.

I know that I’m not the only one considering it. This means that the future of the NHS could look like this: 1) a dangerous shortage of junior doctors, and 2) those doctors that choose to stay will be forced to work unsafe extended hours on reduced pay. It doesn’t sound like an improvement to me.

3rd year King’s Medical Student 

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