Junior Doctors’ Contracts

Part of Opposition Day — [8th allotted day] – in the House of Commons at 6:31 pm on 28th October 2015.

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Photo of Yasmin Qureshi Yasmin Qureshi Labour, Bolton South East 6:31 pm, 28th October 2015

In order to save paper, I am going to read out an email that comes from a doctor in my constituency. It would be great if those responding to the debate dealt with the concerns that doctors have raised and told whether they consider their concerns to be right or wrong.

In essence, the junior doctor says the proposed changes will mean that doctors who work shifts of up to 11 hours will be entitled to only a 20 minute break; an NHS trust will no longer face penalties for introducing unsafe working rotas; and there will be a change in description of what are called sociable working hours. For junior doctors, sociable working hours will now be from 7 am to 7 pm, Monday to Friday, and 7 am to 10 pm on Monday and Saturday. That means that 9 pm on Saturday will be considered to be the same as 9 am on a Tuesday morning. That cannot be right.

The proposals will lead to a decrease in doctors’ salaries. As my junior doctor says, “Contrary to popular belief, we do not earn a lot of money. We start at £22,600 a year after five to six years of hard training and we rack up a debt of £40,000. We work a lot of hours.” The £22,600 figure translates to £10.65 an hour. Junior doctors hold an incredibly responsible job for that amount of money. Changes to pay progression will mean that if they leave the NHS to take up either training or maternity leave, they will not receive the pay rises due to them. In addition, if they change specialism, they will start from the bottom of the pay scale again—all their experience will count for nothing. Patient safety will be compromised and to suggest that that will not happen is plainly wrong.

The junior doctor’s email goes on to state, “We have to move jobs every three to six months. We struggle to settle anywhere and put down roots. We love our jobs and that’s why we sacrifice so much to be doctors, but this new contract is bullying, undermining and undervalues the doctors in our country.” Many doctors may well leave the profession. He says that that is the last thing they want to do, as they love the NHS and they want to serve the NHS.

The suggestion has been made that the information presented by doctors is wrong, or that they are worrying unnecessarily. If that is the case, I would really like an answer to every one of the questions we have raised. We must also be mindful of the fact that many doctors are leaving the United Kingdom. They are going to Australia and to New Zealand, and, as my hon. Friend Sue Hayman said, they may go to Scotland.