Junior doctors protest: Royal London A&E doctor warns lives may be at risk
- Credit: Supplied by Dr Hannah Marshall
A children’s A&E doctor who works gruelling 12 hour shifts fears lives could be put at risk if controversial new NHS contracts are imposed by the government.
Dr Hannah Marshall, a paediatrician at the Royal London Hospital, says patient safety will be compromised if doctors are forced to work longer hours for less pay under proposed employment changes.
The government has faced a backlash from junior doctors over the contentious plans, which it says will better support a seven-day NHS.
But hospital medics, already working punishing shifts, fear rotas will only get worse.
Dr Marshall, 29, who qualified six years ago, said: “I work in children’s A&E and do shifts that are usually nine to 12 hours long. I work one in two weekends. On an average day I might see 10 to 20 children, babies and teenagers that are brought in unwell or injured.
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“It’s high pressured and fast paced. I make decisions that have the potential to be life-saving.
“I frequently get home from work too wired to go to bed, and then lie awake going over the decisions I’ve made that day.”
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The new contract, due to be imposed next August, will affect hundreds of junior doctors at the Royal London in Whitechapel.
The British Medical Association (BMA), the trade union for doctors, says it will remove vital safeguards which mean hospital trusts are fined if junior medics work dangerously long hours.
It will also reclassify “normal working hours” as 7am to 10pm Monday to Saturday, instead of 7am to 7pm Monday to Friday. Critics claim this will affect salaries as junior doctors will miss out on extra pay for unsociable hours.
“The new contract seeks to make doctors work longer hours for less pay, whilst not protecting our wellbeing or appreciating the detrimental effect on our patients it will have,” said Dr Marshall.
“It will be unsafe for patients and unsafe for doctors. It will also reduce our quality of life and increase the level of stress we are under.
“This, and the pay cut, will lead to doctors leaving the profession or leaving the country for better working conditions.”
The BMA is due to ballot on industrial action on November 5. It comes after 20,000 protestors marched on Whitehall on October 17 in support of junior doctors.
A Department of Health spokesman said: “This is not a cost cutting exercise, we are not seeking to save any money from the pay bill.
“The proposal will improve patient safety by better supporting a seven-day NHS.
“This contract will not impose longer hours and we will ensure that the great majority are at least as well paid as they would be now.
“We urge the BMA to come back to the table to work out the best deal for its members.”