Stand up to Hunt! –urges Society for Acute Medicine

Junior doctors outside the Royal London Hospital in east London – they are standing up against Hunt’s imposed contract
Junior doctors outside the Royal London Hospital in east London – they are standing up against Hunt’s imposed contract

‘STAND up to Hunt,’ is the message from the Society for Acute Medicine who have thrown their full weight behind next week’s junior doctors’ strikes on the 26th and 27th.

On Tuesday and Wednesday from 8am until 5pm junior doctors are taking on the government head-on with a full walk-out, an escalation of their struggle. The Society for Acute Medicine (SAM) yesterday called on senior medical leaders to ‘stand up’ to health secretary Jeremy Hunt and hold the government to account.

It warned that acute and emergency performance is already at ‘rock-bottom’ and called the junior doctor contract issue a ‘key battleground’ in defining the future of the NHS – with failure to find a satisfactory outcome likely to have ‘profound and long-lasting’ consequences.

The Society for Acute Medicine (SAM) said: ‘If only our most senior figures would stand up and say, “Jeremy, you have got this wrong.” ‘When dialogue and arbitration have failed, we still need to move forward. In the current junior doctors’ dispute, the time has come for strong leadership from the most senior people within our profession.

‘The junior doctors’ case is robust and credible; they are the righteous ones. Their frustration and anger is well-documented. They have even been supported by Dr Sarah Wollaston, the Conservative chair of the Parliamentary Health Select Committee.

‘Failure to negotiate a satisfactory outcome will have profound and long-lasting consequences for the NHS. In acute specialties we already face a massive recruitment crisis and many hospitals struggle to staff on-call rotas.

‘Does anyone really think that doctors will want to work out-of-hours even more when the fabric of the NHS collapses around them, as was so clearly apparent this winter?

‘We believe that the current dispute is a key battleground in defining the future of the NHS.

‘In acute and emergency care we are already at rock-bottom in terms of performance.

‘It is hard to say if we are already broken. Failure to recognise the long-term dedication of junior doctors might just tip us over the edge.

‘SAM’s specific frustration is centred on Jeremy Hunt’s call for more weekend working.

‘His interpretation of data linking excess weekend mortality to numbers of junior doctors at work is viewed by many of us as wrong.

‘Of more concern is the government’s failure to acknowledge that, in many hospitals, we already have enhanced weekend services. SAM actively promotes seven-day services for our patients. We know that weekend services should be improved but we are also aware of the financial constraints within the NHS.

‘To deliver better weekend services, we need a sustainable clinical model. SAM’s experience in this area should be shared as a matter of urgency with both the government and NHS leaders. We await the call.’

• Junior doctors are discussing escalating their action even further if health secretary Hunt does not remove the imposition of the new contract after the two days of full walk-out.

Emails sent last week by the chair of the British Medical Association’s junior doctors committee (JDC) show that one option that is being considered is an all-out indefinite strike.