‘THE FUTURE OF THE NHS IS AT STAKE!’ – say ‘Mums 4 Medics’

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More than 10,000 doctors face redundancy because of the government’s ‘reforms’
More than 10,000 doctors face redundancy because of the government’s ‘reforms’

OVER 400 doctors, furious at government ‘reforms’ which threaten their profession – making a staggering 14,000 hospital doctors redundant from August – descended on parliament on Tuesday.

The angry protest, organised by Remedy, demanded the immediate scrapping of the ‘reforms’.

The doctors were joined by Mums 4 Medics, who warned that redundant doctors will have to move abroad or face ‘the dole queue’.

Dr Justin Earl, a Senior House Officer (SHO) at the South West London and St George’s Hospital Trust, and member of the British Medical Association, spoke to News Line as the doctors gathered to demonstrate and lobby MPs.

He said: ‘The main issue is the training system and the changes that have been made. We feel bulldozed.

‘The government have effectively ignored calls to delay the implementation. There’s a jobs crisis.

‘I think everybody feels very angry. They feel let down.

‘It’s a very highly-skilled group of people who are motivated and want to make the NHS work.

‘I think it is very worrying. This kind of treatment of junior doctors is alienating a whole generation.’

Rosemary Jackson, from Mums for Medics, said: ‘I’m one of the many parents who have come here today to support their sons and daughters and stand up for the future of the NHS.

‘A junior doctor is anyone up to registrar level. Many already have mortgages and families and have already invested 12-plus years in their training.

‘I feel the future of the NHS is at stake.’

Anna-Louise Nicholls, a paediatric SHO at Guy’s and St Thomas NHS Trust, said she had been training as a doctor (including medical school) for eight-and-a-half years.

‘I’ve been doing the MTAS application and I’ve had three interviews, but they’ve completely changed the system now. They’re interviewing everyone.’

She added: ‘It’s an unfair system. It’s going to directly affect patient care, that’s the most important thing.

‘They said there was a shortage of doctors and now they don’t have the jobs to give us.

‘There are all these people who have been trained who are not going to have jobs and they’re going to end up having to leave the country and it’s going to adversely affect patient care.’

Dr Zerak al-Salihy, a psychiatrist at St Charles Hospital, west London, said: ‘I’m here to express my anger against the whole MTAS system (the new Medical Training Application Service, created by the government).

‘I’m one of the juniors who was affected by the selection process as I was given one interview in Manchester, in the North-West Deanery, and I think the whole process is a failure.

‘It just halted our training in the middle of our training process.’

Dr James Fingleton, an SHO in medicine and elderly care at Southampton University Hospital Trust, warned against MMC (Modernising Medical Careers).

He said: ‘They want more private involvement and the creation of a sub-consultant, so they can reduce the number of consultants.

‘The process should be scrapped.

‘We want a return to proper shortlisting with structured interviews, and if necessary people should have temporary contract extensions to allow a fair process to be restored.’

He added: ‘We want MPs to tell us what they are going to do to oppose this dumbing down in training.

‘This isn’t a fait accompli, it can be changed. We’ve got to act now.’

Dr Stephen Ginn, a psychiatry SHO at Bethlem Hospital in Kent, said: ‘The training for junior doctors has been thrown into complete disarray.

‘Large numbers of junior doctors look like they’re going to be unemployed at the end of this.

‘We’re being asked to accept an application system which seems to have as its main object bureaucratic expediency, rather than the needs of patients.

‘An example is we’re being asked to not only reapply for our jobs, but to reapply for our jobs over massive areas.

‘For instance, in reapplying for my job, the smallest area I can apply to geographically is London, Kent, Surrey and Sussex. That’s 10,500 square kilometres!’

He added: ‘Previously, doctors were able to control their own appointments, now they can no longer appoint their own staff, and this power is being placed in the hands of a centralised office, independent of individual hospitals.’

Dr Sarah Bell, an SHO anaesthetist, from Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport, said: ‘I think the whole process is fundamentally flawed.

‘They haven’t planned for enough training posts for August.

‘There won’t be sufficient doctors filling posts and 10,000 doctors potentially will be unemployed.

‘It will have an impact on doctors’ training and patient care.

‘I think we need to defend our professional autonomy.’

Dr Ravi Ray, a senior clinical fellow in trauma and orthopaedics at Maidstone Hospital in Kent, demanded ‘the immediate abolition of MTAS’.

He said: ‘There is a reason doctors’ training is five to six years’ long, not four. We don’t want it to be any shorter.

‘There aren’t any consultants’ jobs to go to.

‘There are 350 unemployed consultant-level doctors already and in five years’ time that will escalate to 2,500.

‘The government has drawn the purse strings and in doing so it has put a stranglehold on the NHS Trusts, who are not at liberty to employ further consultants.

‘This is an issue of patient safety.’

He added: ‘There are four grades of doctor: consultant, registrar, Senior House Officer and Pre-Registration House Officer (PRHO).

‘In the past, the bottom two grades changed on the same day and registrars two months later, in October.

‘But now, under the new system, they’re proposing to change the entire junior workforce in one day, the first Wednesday in August.

‘This is an horrendous issue in itself.’

Dr Amit Pabari, a plastic surgery SHO at Wexham Park Hospital in Slough, said: ‘I qualified in 1999 and since then I’ve worked at the best hospitals.

‘I worked at St Bart’s in my first jobs and then I went to do all my surgical training at the Hammersmith Hospital, which is one of the best in the whole of the UK.

‘I did all of my Royal College of Surgeons exams in London and after that I went to sub-specialise in plastic surgery and I’ve been doing that for two years now.

‘I am now able to do the majority of treatments of patients who come to me through A&E or through wards.

‘The main problem now is with the computerised system. All the previous training I’ve had has just not been recognised.

‘I applied for four posts in plastic surgery and was not shortlisted for a single one of them.

‘MTAS is a computerised system, which fails to recognise doctors with experience and doctors who are just coming out fresh from medical school.

‘It will create chaos in the NHS in August and I think patient care will suffer.

‘The whole of post-graduate medical training is now controlled by central government.

‘PMETB (Post-Medical Education Training Board) has taken all responsibility away from the royal medical colleges and it should be returned without delay.

‘I’m doing my American exams now, I’ve got the final part in July, and if I’m successful I’ll leave, because this is just creating a lot of distress.

‘There is no certainty of jobs anymore.

‘I think that’s what will happen in future, I think the government may try to move into privatisation along the lines of the American health care system.’

Consultant Anna Athow joined Tuesday’s protest. She told News Line: ‘The government is rushing through MTAS and MMC, which will result in the redundancies of thousands of junior doctors this summer, a part of their plans to destroy and privatise the NHS.

‘At the heart of the attack is the incipient closure of 60 District General Hospitals in England.

‘The only way the jobs of junior and senior doctors can be defended, and those of other NHS staff, is to take up the fight to defend the NHS through trade union action.

‘We need a new leadership in the BMA (British Medical Association).’

Among those who addressed a rally at parliament on Tuesday, were Dr Neel Burton, Remedy co-founder Matt Jameson-Evans, a speaker from Mums 4 Medics, as well as Labour MP Dr Ian Gibson and spokesmen from the Tories and Liberal Democrats, who were also invited to address the doctors.

Doctors distributed a letter of protest demanding ‘Stop MMC’, which has already been signed by thousands of professors, consultants and junior doctors.

It says: ‘It is my belief that Modernising Medical Careers will seriously harm patient care, both immediately and in the long term.

‘Furthermore, I believe that the Medical Training Application Service (MTAS) review group’s final conclusions with regard to the selection of doctors for consultancy training posts in 2007 are absolutely unacceptable.

‘The conclusions from the review group have endorsed a selection process which the group itself has labelled unsatisfactory.

‘The conclusions remain unjust and unsatisfactory.

‘I oppose without compromise the final statement from the MTAS review group.’